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Researchers receive study grant for research into Congo Fever
2015-03-10

UFS researchers will be contributing significantly to the search for a vaccine against the deadly tick-borne disease known as Congo Fever.

Prof Felicity Burt from the Department of Medical Microbiology and Virology was recently awarded a research grant by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) to study candidate vaccines for Crimean-Congo heamorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus and other arboviruses.

Arboviruses are viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, or other arthropods.

Prof Burt is an internationally-recognised expert on the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF). The Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus is a tick-borne virus that is associated with severe haemorrhagic disease in South Africa and other parts of Africa, Asia, and eastern Europe. Her interests focus on medically significant viruses that are transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes. Her research group is involved in determining the immune responses that are induced by different viral proteins.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus, a tick- borne virus found in Africa, Asia, the Balkans, and eastern Europe, causes severe viral haemorrhagic fever outbreaks.

Although a number of tick species are capable of becoming infected with CCHF virus, ticks of the genus Hyalomma, commonly referred to in SA as the “bont-legged ticks”, are the principal vector. The ticks have distinctive brown and white bands on their legs.

In February 1981, the first case of CCHF was recognised in South Africa (SA). To date, there have been nearly 200 cases of CCHF infection in SA with a 20% fatality rate. The majority of cases occurring in SA were in patients from the Northern Cape and Free State provinces.

“The funding that has been awarded will be used to profile immune responses against CCHF viral proteins, and investigate mechanisms and strategies to enhance these immune responses. We hope that the study will contribute knowledge towards the development of a vaccine against this medically significant virus.”

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za.

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