Report from the 1st meeting

Viral zoonoses are virus infections of animals that can be naturally transmitted to man, often with devastating effect. Rabies is perhaps the prime example of a zoonotic viral infection, which causes some 60,000 human deaths per year. Zoonotic viral infections can also be the root of emerging diseases, with the 1993 outbreak of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the US being a classic exemplar. Clearly viral zoonosis will continue to be highly significant to human health in the future, and hence it seemed timely to hold a meeting devoted to this topic from the European perspective.

Eighty three participants gathered in the Côte d’Azure resort of St Raphaël at the (first) European Meeting on Viral Zoonoses in October 2001. Over two and a half days, scientific sessions covered the ecology, epidemiology, virology and prevention of zoonotic viral diseases. A number of keynote talks were distributed throughout the sessions: M Labuda (Bratislava) described the complex interactions between tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) its vector ticks and various vertebrate hosts in the transmission of this virus. M Bennett (Liverpool) reported on several years of observation on the ecology of cowpox virus in wild rodent population in the UK. H Zeller (Paris) gave a timely presentation on the status of West Nile virus in Europe, while E Gould (Oxford) presented a comprehensive analysis of flavivirus evolution. The role of Borna disease virus in human infection remains controversial and P Staehli (Freiburg) gave a well balanced account of the available evidence, highlighting some pitfalls of highly sensitive PCR techniques. F Heinz (Vienna) described in detail the structure and functions of flavivirus envelope glycoprotein, reflecting the excellent progress made in this area. A Vaheri (Helsinki) gave a comprehensive overview of molecular biology and pathogenesis of hantaviruses from the European viewpoint, which was contrasted appropriately by H Feldman (Winnipeg) who reviewed hantavirus in the Americas, followed by more detailed discussion of hantavirus glycoprotein processing. While rabies virus is no longer the scourge of Europe that it once was, R Chaves (Chiron) described the still serious situation in developing countries and improvements made to vaccine design and vaccination policy. J Beran (Hradec Kralove) described detailed studies on vaccination regimes against TBEV, indicating the great successes achieved in protecting humans against this disease.

In addition to the keynote talks other oral presentations covered many different aspects of the gamut of viral zoonotic viruses, including Sindbis virus (O Vapalahti, Helsinki), caliciviruses (I Clark, Southampton), Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus (C Clegg, Salisbury) and Lassa fever virus (ter Meulen, Marburg), while J Saluzzo (Acambis) concluded the meeting with a talk on the exciting prospects of recombinant vaccines based on yellow fever 17D vaccine.

A number of factors contribute to a successful meeting including quality of the science and the speakers, good audiovisual facilities, an attractive location, and smooth local organisation. Judging by the favourable feedback received, this meeting was considered highly successful. In addition, the topic attracted much interest from the pharmaceutical industry, with excellent sponsorship provided by Aventis Pasteur, Baxter Vaccine, Chiron Vaccines, Eurocine and Virbac. Therefore the organisers are proceeding with the ‘second’ European Meeting on Viral Zoonoses, to be held (probably) in 2003.

Richard M Elliott
20 November 2001


Report from the 2nd meeting

Following the success of the (first) European on Viral Zoonoses in October 2001, the organisers were encourage to arrange a second meeting, again at the attractive venue of St Raphael on the Cote d’Azure. On this occasion some 110 participants attended to enjoy an excellent 2 and half days of science devoted to viral zoonotic diseases, covering ecology, epidemiology, virology and prevention.

The meeting comprised keynote talks from invited speakers, oral presentations selected from offered abstracts, and a good number of posters. Scientifically the meeting was again highly successful, with the all invited speakers giving outstanding lectures. These highlighted the continuing threat to human health of zoonotic viruses, most recently exemplified by SARS, and reinforced the view that overall funding for research in this area, in Europe at least, remains inadequate. The meeting opened with an overview of the subject from Brian Mahy (Atlanta) who nicely set the scene by discussing the global importance of viral zoonoses, using examples such as West Nile, hantaviruses and monkeypox viruses. Since this talk preceded a champagne reception it was particularly well attended!

On the first full day of the meeting we awoke not to the expected South of France sunshine but extremely heavy rain that battered on the roof of the conference centre – the speaker’s microphone had to be turned up full to hear the presentations. The day began with a superb talk by Adriano Aguzzi (Zurich) on prion pathogenesis, who illustrated the power of mouse transgenics to the study the sequence of events resulting in prion infection of the central nervous system. Franz Heinz (Vienna) described detailed analysis of flavivirus membrane fusion, the fastest known viral fusion mechanism analysed to date. Willy Spaan (Leiden) gave a timely presentation on SARS coronavirus, describing the rapid progress on molecular characterisation of the virus responsible and the new insights into coronavirus replication that have been made. Michele Bouloy (Paris) reported on the role of the Rift Valley fever virus NSs protein in pathogenesis and presented exciting data indicating NSs acts globally in the infected cell to inhibit RNA polymerase II-mediated transcription. Marion Koopmans (Bilthoven) reviewed the recent avian influenza virus outbreak in the Netherlands; millions of chickens were destroyed to contain the outbreak. In addition there was a single human fatality and nearly a hundred farm workers were infected, the majority reporting severe conjunctivitis. Finally Vincent Deubel (Lyon) described the development of a hamster model to study Nipah virus pathogenesis and encouraging preliminary data on vaccine development. Nearly all the important zoonotic viruses were covered either in the keynote talks or the offered papers, so hantaviruses, Ebola, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, rabies, etc all had their exposure.

Once again the organisers are indebted to financial support for the meeting generously provided by Aventis-Pasteur, Baxter Vaccine, Chiron Vaccines, Fort Dodge Animal Health and Virbac, as well as the St Raphael municipality. Plans are well in hand for the next meeting, same venue but earlier in the season, in May 2005.

Richard M Elliott
November 2003


Report from the 3rd meeting

Once again experts in viral zoonoses gathered under the warm Mediterranean sun in St Raphaël (France) at the third European Meeting on Viral Zoonoses in May 2005.

The Meeting was attended by more than 100 scientists from 22 countries who throughly enjoyed the very special atmosphere of the forum.

Following the now traditional schedule, scientific sessions covered the ecology, epidemiology, virology and prevention of zoonotic viral diseases. The keynote talks given by C.J. Peters (Galveston, U.S.A.), Sarah Randolph (Oxford, UK), Esteban Domingo (Madrid, Spain), Yoshihiro Kawaoka (Madison, U.S.A. and Tokyo, Japan), Otto Haller (Freiburg, Germany), and Gary Nabel (Bethesda, U.S.A.) provided excellend overviews and introductions for the submitted oral presentations and poster sessions that followed.

An interesting social program for both participants and accompanying persons, thanks to efforts of the local organisers and particularly the Chair of the Organising Committee, Noël Tordo, contriubuted tremendously to the Meeting’s success.

The organisers are indebted to the continuing financial support for the Meetings from Chiron Vaccines, Fort Dodge Animal Health and Sanofi Pasteur, as well as the St Raphaël municipality. The next Meeting will be held at St. Andrews, Scotland, UK, June 2-5, 2007.


Report from the 4th meeting

The European Meeting on Viral Zoonoses moved north from the Cote d’Azur to the north-east coast of Scotland, the home of golf and Scotland’s oldest University, founded in 1413, for its fourth gathering. The meeting followed the pattern established in previous years, with an opening address on the Saturday evening preceding a buffet-and-drinks get-together, and then scientific sessions covering ecology, epidemiology and diagnostics, virology, and antivirals and prevention.

Ab Osterhaus opened with a comprehensive overview of emerging zoonoses, given in his characteristically enthusiastic style. The scientific sessions were prefaced by a series of excellent keynote talks from Rick Randall (interferons and the species barrier for emerging viruses), Zdenek Hubalek (ecology of European arboviruses), Juan Ortin (structural analyses of influenza virus proteins and interactions with the host), Antoine Gessain (emerging novel human retroviruses in Africa), and finally Noel Tordo, a late replacement, on antiviral strategies against lyssaviruses. The offered talks covered the full gamut of research on viral zoonoses, complemented by a very high standard of poster presentations.

Plenty of time was available for discussion by the participants, aided by the provision of quality sustenance by the University of St Andrews catering staff. The conference dinner was followed by a ceilidh (traditional Scottish dancing) that was much appreciated by the participants. It proved an energetic way to shed a few kilos though required extensive rehydration. One of the Scandinavian delegates remarked that he could not remember the last time he had so much fun with his clothes on…….

The organisers give heartfelt thanks to the sponsors for once again helping to ensure a highly successful meeting: Qiagen Ltd, Fort Dodge Animal Health, Novartis Vaccines, Merck Chemicals Ltd and Baxter Oy. The demand on companies to support the burgeoning number of meetings worldwide is immense and the continuing support for the European Meeting on Viral Zoonoses is much appreciated.