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Researchers from University of Oxford are studying how viruses from wild animals develop into emerging infections in humans.

Wild animals carry many viruses that can cause widespread illness in animal populations. These viruses then can create serious threats to human health. Although a rare occurence, viruses such as rabies, HIV and influenza all started as infections in wild animals. Viruses can adapt their genetic code to allow them to infect other species, allowing them to transmit to and between humans. Researchers are following the development of emerging viruses by observing natural infection in wild-life reservoirs and tracking how viruses change to become efficient pathogens of humans.

“The transformation of wildlife viruses into emerging infections in humans depends on a combination of evolutionary and ecological processes. Tracing viruses from their origins gives us the opportunity to sequence the genes of these viruses and begin to understand how they can successfully adapt to human hosts,” says Professor Angela McLean FRS, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford.

Visitors will be able to learn how viruses mutate as they spread from wild animals to humans, plan their own viral control strategy, and perform viral analysis in a mock lab.

Exhibited by University of Oxford.

See all exhibits from 2010