Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a biphasic flavivirus infection affecting the central nervous system, often entailing severe sequelae, and since 2005 the incidence in Sweden has increased by 5% annually.
Within 2 weeks after being bitten by an infected tick, many will experience an influenza-like illness (first phase) and thereafter some progress to develop neurological symptoms (second phase), but unfortunately no biomarkers of outcome are established. Vaccines are available, although vaccine breakthroughs occur, some lethal. Similarly, TBE infection in the setting of transplantation is often fatal. Regrettably no anti-viral therapy is licensed for TBE although novel anti-viral therapies with in vitro activity are entering phase I trials.
This research project aims at improving knowledge of both the first (FATB-study) and second phases (MEATB) of TBE, thus setting the stage for coming therapeutic trials. This will be achieved by (i) earlier diagnosis by addition of PCR, (ii) evaluating potential biomarkers, and (iii) establishing a biobank for research on tick-borne infections.
This work is a continuation of our research on hepatitis C virus (HCV; another flavivirus), thus far funded by the Swedish Research Council. Our group previously helped identify the importance of IP-10 (aka CXCL10) as well as interferon lambda 4 (IFNL4 aka IL28B) and inosine triphosphatase (ITPA) for chronic HCV infection, and is currently evaluating their impact on TBE and acute HCV infection.