Introduction to the Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance
NIAID has had a long history of supporting research activities to provide more effective approaches to controlling influenza virus infections. These activities include both basic and applied research on influenza virus basic biology and replication, pathogenesis, immunology, epidemiology, and clinical research to develop new and improved diagnostics, antiviral drugs, and vaccines. Due to the ever present threat of an influenza pandemic, the Institute is initiating this program to establish NIAID Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance to support the research agenda of the HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan.
Following the 1997 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in humans in Hong Kong, NIAID awarded a contract to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 1999 (N01-AI-95357), entitled “Pandemic Preparedness in Asia.” Through this program, virologic surveillance in aquatic birds and in live bird markets in Hong Kong has been established and other activities to elucidate the natural history of influenza viruses with pandemic potential have been carried out. In addition, scientists have conducted training courses in animal influenza surveillance, and developed reagents to detect these viruses which are available to the influenza research community. This contract also has provided characterized viruses suitable for use in human vaccine development and production.
Through the 2005 solicitation, NIAID sought to continue and expand its animal influenza surveillance program internationally and domestically, as well as focus on several high priority areas in influenza research. The overall goal of this program is to provide the Government with information and public health tools and strategies needed to control and lessen the impact of epidemic influenza and the increasing threat of pandemic influenza.
The activities undertaken by the CEIRS will lay the groundwork for the development of new and improved control measures for emerging and reemerging influenza viruses, including determining the prevalence of avian influenza viruses in animals in close contact with humans, understanding how influenza viruses evolve, adapt and transmit, and identifying immunological factors that determine disease outcome.
In the event of an urgent public health emergency involving the emergence and rapid spread of an influenza pandemic in humans, the Network of Centers shall also develop and implement a NIAID Pandemic Public Health Research Response Plan.
Each Center has a focus on one or both of the following research areas:
Research Area 1: Animal Influenza Surveillance Conduct prospective international and/or domestic animal influenza surveillance for the rapid detection and characterization of influenza viruses with pandemic potential.
Research Area 2: Pathogenesis and Host Response Research Conduct research to enhance understanding of the molecular, ecological, and/or environmental factors that influence pathogenesis, transmission, and evolution of influenza viruses; and characterize the protective immune response.
For information on site locations, please see the Centers page.