Research in this area is strongly linked to the activities of the National Influenza Reference Center (NIC) and WHO Reference Laboratory for H5 and SARS-CoV viruses, associated to the unit. We contribute to the epidemiological and virological surveillance of human influenza viruses and of other respiratory viruses at the national, European and international level. In case of emergence of a new respiratory virus, such as the H1N1pdm09 influenza virus in 2009, or of sporadic human cases of infection with a zoonotic virus, such as the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza viruses since 2003, the H7N9 influenza virus in 2013 or the MERS coronavirus since 2012, we develop appropriate methods for the detection, and genetic, antigenic and phenotypic characterization of the emerging virus, as well as serological tools.
We are working in close collaboration with clinicians. During the H1N1pdm09 pandemic, we contributed to the description of the kinetics of virus excretion and to the characterization of severe cases from a virological and an immunological point of view. More recently, we contributed to the investigations on two cases of MERS-CoV infection in France.
Our studies on influenza virus evolution are aimed at understanding the drivers underlying genetic diversity through isolation of fidelity variants of the viral polymerase and evaluation of the diversity of the viral populations in link with influenza virus (sub)-types, species origin and clinical severity. They are also focused on the mechanisms that favor the emergence of viruses with reduced susceptibility to antiviral treatments. Studies on the role of the non-coding (NC) extremities of the viral RNA in the regulation of expression of the viral genomic segments and type-specificity of influenza type A and type C viruses further provide insights into the limitations of reassortment, another major driver of evolution of influenza viruses.
Keywords : influenza virus, MERS-CoV, viral diagnosis, viral evolution, genetic diversity, genetic reassortment, resistance to antivirals