Zoonotic, Arbo- and Respiratory Virus Program (ZARV)

Research leader: Prof. Marietjie Venter

Department of Medical Virology, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences

Position: Professor/ Head: Zoonotic Arbo- and Respiratory Virus (ZARV) group

Physical address: Room 2-67, Pathology Building, 5 Bophelo Road, Prinshof Campus, University of Pretoria, Corner of Steve Biko and Dr Savage St, Pretoria 0001.

Tel: +27 012 319 2638

E-mail: [email protected]


Marietjie Venter obtained a PhD (Medical Virology, University of the Witwatersrand, 2003) and postdoctoral training, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, USA (2003) on West Nile virus while employed at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) (1999-2005). She launched the ZARV program at University of Pretoria (UP) (2006-2009). She served in joint appointments with UP and NICD (2009-2014) as Co-Director, Centre for Respiratory diseases and Meningitis, National Influenza Centre Director, and the US-CDC, One Health Program director, Global Disease Detection Program, South Africa (2014-2016). She joined UP as a full time Professor in Medical Virology as head of the Zoonotic Arbo and Respiratory Virus program under the   Centre for Viral Zoonoses, UP (2016). She has >126 scientific publications (H-index: 34; >4593 citations). She is a World Health Organization (WHO) advisor (Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV) and Influenza pandemic preparedness); Scientific advisory board member, International One Health Platform, contact person for International One Health day for Africa, and deputy president, Africa, World Virology Society.

Research description 

The Zoonotic Arbo- and Respiratory Virus group uses a One Health approach to investigate zoonotic vector borne and respiratory viruses in humans, animals and the mosquito vectors. Virologists in the group work closely with epidemiologists, medical entomologists, veterinary pathologists, and clinical researchers to investigate these viruses in clinical specimens from animals and humans as well as vectors collected around outbreaks. The group’s main focus is zoonotic arboviruses including flaviviruses, alphaviruses and bunyaviruses associated with neurological infections and unsolved deaths in humans and animals as well as respiratory viruses transmitted from animals to humans or between humans to cause severe acute respiratory disease including pneumo-, paramyxo, corona (Including COVID19) and influenza viruses. The group has a broad focus on disease surveillance; epidemiology, molecular biology; immunology and ecology of endemic and emerging viruses as well as development of novel diagnostics, viral pathogenesis viral discovery and control measures. International collaborations includes EU, US and African partners and funders: 1.)“Long term EU-Africa research and innovation Partnership on food and nutrition security and sustainable Agriculture (LEAP-Agric)" focussing on development of diagnostic tools for neglected zoonotic arboviruses. (Partners: SA, the Netherlands, Germany and Cameroon) 2.)ANDEMIA (African Network for improved diagnostics and epidemiology of common and emerging pathogens and zoonoses, a collaboration between the Robert Koch Institute, South Africa (UP and NICD); Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, and the DRC:  the study focus on defining the causes of febrile disease of unknown origin with or without neurological, respiratory and enteric signs including SARSCOV2. 3.) Vector surveillance and pathogen discovery (University of Lisbon, Warwick, University of Leiden, the Netherlands, ICIPE, Kenya, NICD) studies funded through the University of Pretoria development fund and previous CoAg agreement on Zoonotic diseases with the US-CDC. 

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