National Reference Centre for the Scientific Research in Infectious Diseases at the Animal/Human interface – OIE Collaborating Centre for Diseases at the Animal/Human Interface

Diseases at the animal/human interface

The National Reference Centre and the OIE Collaborating Centre for Diseases at the Animal/Human Interface have been appointed in August 2008 and June 2009, by the Italian Ministry of Health and the OIE, respectively.

Understanding the interactions between animals and humans and their ecosystem – including the microbiome – is critical in preventing outbreaks of zoonotic disease. As stated in the WHO web site:

any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans and vice-versa is classified as a zoonosis according to the PAHO publication “Zoonoses and communicable diseases common to man and animals”. Zoonoses have been recognized for many centuries, and over 200 have been described. They are caused by all types of pathogenic agents, including bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses.

In the recent past, zoonotic pathogens have been responsible for the majority of the emerging disease events and the diseases they can cause have the potential for significant morbidity and mortality in animals and humans.

The Centre has been excelling in the last decades for its commitment in establishing and maintaining scientific networks for the early diagnosis and research on viral pathogens that may emerge from the animal reservoir.

IZSVe significantly contributed to the efforts made by international organizations OIE, WHO and FAO in facing emerging infectious disease epidemics, as clearly demonstrated during the panzootic Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1. The HPAI/H5N1 crisis has highlighted the need for closer collaboration between human and veterinary medicine, and within this context, the Centre has played as leading organization in endorsing and promoting the One Health principle.

The synergic collaboration between human and veterinary medicine, as well as scientific and technical cooperation programmes, promoting interdisciplinary synergies, networks and data sharing on the research, prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging zoonoses have been all strategic activities of the Centre.

Activites and servicesProjects and collaborationsPublicationsContacts

Activities and services

Specific activities

The Centre is firmly committed to work as part of a wider network with other OIE Collaborating Centers, especially those working in the topic of zoonoses.The Centre’s experts are leading and active researchers helping the Collaborating Centre to provide scientific and technical assistance and expert advice on topics linked to diagnosis, surveillance and control of the viral zoonotic diseases.

They also provide scientific and technical training for veterinaries, technicians and students, and coordinate scientific activities in collaboration with other laboratories or organizations to strengthen their capacity in the field of viral zoonotic diseases.

The Centre works in close collaboration with the European Union Reference LabnoratOIE Reference Laboratory / FAO Reference centre for avian influenza and Newcastle disease as well as with the FAO Reference Centre for Rabies and the OIE Reference Laboratory for Salmonellosis, hosted in IZSVe

Specific areas of activities include research and diagnostic innovation for the diseases for which IZSVe plays as a reference, such as influenza and rabies, but also for those that are epidemiologically most relevant, as i.e. selected food-borne pathogens.

The Centre’s current activities are:

  • investigation of the evolutionary dynamics, natural selection, recombination and gene flow of zoonotic RNA viruses;
  • evaluation of the factors driving the emergence of novel RNA virus variants in the animal reservoir as well as their inter-species transmission to new hosts;
  • evaluation of the efficacy and breadth of vaccines and immunotherapeutics against RNA viruses with zoonotic potential;
  • evaluation of food-safety of selected food categories in relation to viral pathogens.

Mandate of the OIE Collaborating Centre

  • To provide services to the OIE, in particular within the region, in the designated specialty, in support of the implementation of OIE policies and, where required, seek for collaboration with OIE Reference Laboratories
  • To propose or develop methods and procedures that facilitate harmonisation of international standards and guidelines applicable to the designated specialty
  • To carry out and/or coordinate scientific and technical studies in collaboration with other centres, laboratories or organisations
  • To collect, process, analyse, publish and disseminate data and information relevant to the designated specialty
  • To provide, within the designated specialty, scientific and technical training to personnel from OIE Member Countries
  • To organise and participate in scientific meetings and other activities on behalf of the OIE
  • To identify and maintain existing expertise, in particular within its region
  • To establish and maintain a network with other OIE Collaborating Centres designated for the same specialty, and should the need arise, with Collaborating Centres in other disciplines
  • To place expert consultants at the disposal of the OIE

Diagnostic capabilities

Centre’s capabilities include laboratory techniques for the conventional diagnosis and the complete characterization of zoonotic viral agents as well as for the serological investigations in sera of animal and human origins.

In addition, molecular techniques (RT-PCR, real time RT-PCR sequencing and Next Generation Sequencing) and bioinformatics tools to study viral evolution as well as host genetic characteristics are currently used.

The Centre has access to biosafety level 3 laboratory and animal facilities for birds, small mammals and pigs.

Projects and collaborations

  • FP7 – PREDEMICS: Preparedness, Prediction and Prevention of Emerging Zoonotic Viruses with Pandemic Potential using Multidisciplinary Approaches
  • FP7 – FLUPIG: Pathogenesis and transmission of Influenza in Pigs
  • FP7 – EMIDA ERA NET –– EPI SEQ Consortium Agreement: Molecular Epidemiology of epizootic diseases using next generation sequence technology
  • CARIPLO Fondation: Novel strategies of vaccine design to prevent emerging and pandemic influenza virus infections (NoFlu)
  • GR-2011-02350591: An epizootiological survey of bats as reservoirs of emerging zoonotic viruses in Italy: implications for public health and biological conservation


  • Monne I, Meseko C, Joannis T, Shittu I, Ahmed M, Tassoni L, et al. Highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) virus in poultry, Nigeria, 2015 [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2015 Jul [date cited]
  • Patrono LV, Bonfante F, Zanardello C, Terregino C, Capua I, Murcia PR. Phylogenetically distinct equine influenza viruses show different tropism for the swine respiratory tract. J Gen Virol. 2015 Jan 15. pii: vir.0.000049. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.000049.
  • Kasloff, S. B., Pizzuto, M. S., Silic-Benussi, M., Pavone, S., Ciminale, V., Capua, I. (2014). Oncolytic activity of avian influenza virus in human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell lines. Journal of Virology, doi:JVI.00929-14
  • Monne, I., Ceglie, L., DI Martino, G., Natale, A., Zamprogna, S., Morreale, A., Rampazzo, E., Cattoli, G., & Bonfanti, L. (2014). Hepatitis E virus genotype 4 in a pig farm, Italy, 2013. Epidemiology and infection, 1-5. doi:S0950268814001150 [pii]
  • Bonfante, F., Patrono, L. V., Aiello, R., Beato, M. S., Terregino, C., & Capua, I. (2013). Susceptibility and intra-species transmission of the H9N2 G1 prototype lineage virus in Japanese quail and turkeys. Veterinary Microbiology, 165(1-2), 177-183.
  • Capua, I., Mercalli, A., Pizzuto, M. S., Romero-Tejeda, A., Kasloff, S., De Battisti, C., et al. (2013). Influenza A viruses grow in human pancreatic cells and cause pancreatitis and diabetes in an animal model. Journal of Virology, 87(1), 597-610.
  • Monne, I., Yamage, M., Dauphin, G., Claes, F., Ahmed, G., Giasuddin, M., et al. (2013). Reassortant avian influenza A (H5N1) viruses with H9N2-PB1 gene in poultry, Bangladesh. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 19(10), 1630-1634.
  • Toffan, A., Brutti, A., De Pasquale, A., Cappellozza, E., Pascoli, F., Cigarini, M., et al. (2013). The effectiveness of domestic cook on inactivation of murine norovirus in experimentally infected manila clams (Ruditapes philippinarum). Journal of Applied Microbiology, doi: 10.1111/jam.12346.
  • De Benedictis, P., Perboni, G., Gentili, C., Gaetti, L., Zaffanella, F., Mutinelli, F., et al. (2012). Fatal case of human rabies imported to Italy from India highlights the importance of adequate post-exposure prophylaxis, October 2011. Eurosurveillance, 17(19), pii 20168.
  • Arcangeli G, Terregino C, De Benedictis P, Zecchin B, Manfrin A, Rossetti E, Magnabosco C, Mancin M, Brutti A. Effect of high hydrostatic pressure on murine norovirus in Manila clams. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2012 Apr;54(4):325-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2012.03211.x.


Gioia Capelli
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