By Chantall Van Raay
In the movie Contagion in theatres this Friday, a lethal species-jumping virus spreads rapidly causing sickness and death worldwide.
The premise is not far from reality.
According to Karen Mossman, an associate professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster, the chance of a pandemic occurring is imminent. "The world has faced pandemic outbreaks in the past, including SARS and swine flu," she says. "But with an increase in population density and more people travelling, the chance of a pathogen jumping species and spreading worldwide is more likely than ever."
Researchers within McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) are prepared in the event of another worldwide pandemic.
For example, Mossman targets virus–host interactions with a focus on innate cellular antiviral responses and virus counter-responses with an aim to prevent viruses from multiplying and spreading; James Mahoney, professor of pathology and molecular medicine, has developed improved diagnostic tests for potentially pandemic influenza viruses; Mark Loeb, professor of pathology and molecular medicine, has led multi-disciplinary research programs on SARS; and pathologist Marek Smieja, professor pathology and molecular medicine, has conducted projects in pandemic influenza in sub-Sahara Africa.
For more information about IIDR's researchers and their expertise, visit http://iidr.mcmaster.ca/investigators/index.html