Richard Hall and Matthew Peacey are virus hunters using new methods to discover emerging diseases in humans and animals.
Listen to this RNZ Our Changing World audio from May 2011: Virus Hunters.
Watch their colleague, Wendy Williamson, explain a few of the challenges faced by virus hunters – and how technology is coming to their aid.
DNA sequencing to identify viruses
A pathogen is a disease-causing agent, like a virus or bacteria. Richard Hall and Matthew Peacey are virus hunters at ESR (Environmental Science & Research). In collaboration with Thomas Briese and other researchers from Columbia University, New York, they’re using techniques such as MassTag PCR, microarray and next-generation sequencing to try and discover new or emerging pathogens in both humans and animals. Working with doctors and veterinarians, this information can potentially be used to help treat diseases and stop them spreading.
Hunting for a yellow-eyed penguin virus
To see what’s involved in tracking down a virus, Ruth Beran goes to ESR’s Clinical Virology Laboratory in Upper Hutt, where the hunt is on for the pathogen causing stomatitis in yellow-eyed penguins.
It’s estimated that every vertebrate species has 20 viruses that are unique to that species. Currently, only 1,700 vertebrate viruses have been characterised, leaving a huge number of viruses still undiscovered.
Programme details: Our Changing World.