In the last five years Sander Herfst's most important achievement was related to airborne transmission of avian influenza H5N1 virus between mammals. With the publication of this research (Science, 2012, first author), one of the most important and urgent questions in influenza research has been answered; he showed that avian influenza H5N1 virus can become transmissible between mammals. This research also demonstrated that antibodies induced by pre-pandemic H5N1 vaccines neutralize the airborne virus and that stockpiled antiviral drugs are effective against airborne H5N1 virus.
About this project
The project highlighted new fundamental details about genetic changes required for airborne transmission that had remained elusive so far. With collaborators at Cambridge University UK, Sander Herfst and his team further showed that the individual airborne H5N1 mutations are already circulating in the field, and that the chance of airborne H5N1 virus emerging in the field is small, but not negligible (Science, 2012).Subsequently, he and others also applied the accumulated knowledge on H5N1 virus to H7N9 virus when this virus emerged in China in 2013, to show that this virus naturally acquired some airborne transmissibility, and shared mutations with airborne H5N1 virus (Nature, 2013).
Field(s) of expertise
Scholarships, grants, and awards
Sander Herfst is funded by the prestigious Dutch NWO VIDI grant and the European H2020 program VetBioNet.
Heine-Medin 2018 award for dr. Sander Herfst.