Dr Maciej Boni’s research aims to shed light on the dynamics of influenza viruses in tropical countries. Influenza virus – or the “flu” as it is commonly called – is associated with hundreds of thousands of deaths globally each year. Flu epidemics in colder climates occur in the wintertime, and the virus is able to come back every year because it is constantly evolving to escape our immune defences. But flu epidemics in the tropics are largely undescribed and irregular. In Vietnam, for example, the public health community still doesn’t know why we might see an April outbreak one year and an October outbreak the following year.
In 2008, Dr. Boni joined the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to begin investigating basic epidemiological questions about tropical influenza.
“In 2010, I piloted a serum collection project, with the aim of establishing a sustainable long-term sample collection procedure that would allow us to investigate the dynamic patterns of influenza epidemiology in southern Vietnam. The public health and medical communities in Vietnam have been very enthusiastic about developing this resource, especially as it might also translate to analyses for other diseases.
Our research group has been focused on measuring antibody levels in these serum samples. The novel data set we are assembling a in the form of a serum sample time series will allow us to reconstruct past influenza epidemics in Vietnam, accounting for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.
The Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust have been extremely supportive of my work and the work of other young scientists. The influenza research programme I am running in Vietnam is somewhat unorthodox in its methods and approach, and my Sir Henry Dale Fellowship has been the key pillar in helping me develop and grow this research.”