LEAP-Agri/LEARN consortium meeting at UP puts diagnoses and epidemiology of neglected arboviruses at centre stage

Posted on February 18, 2020

The University of Pretoria (UP) has significant strengths in the field of human, animal and environmental health and aims to enhance One Health networks in Africa, said UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe. Prof Kupe was speaking at the LEAP-Agri/LEARN (Long-term Europe-African Research Network for diagnoses and epidemiology of neglected arboviruses) consortium meeting recently hosted at UP’s Future Africa.

One Health is an approach to improving animal and human health globally that encourages collaboration among professionals in public health, animal health, plant health and the environment, with a particular focus on the veterinary and human medical professions.

“Having one of the top medical schools in the country with several academic hospitals associated with us, as well as the leading veterinary school in Africa with field sites that allow us to study human, wildlife, livestock and vector interaction, we are ideally situated to be a hub for One Health research in Africa,” added Prof Kupe.

Dr Abel Wade, Dr Benjamin Gutjahr, Prof Martin Groschup, Prof Jeroen Kortekaas, Prof Robin Green, Prof Tawana Kupe and Prof Marietjie Venter.

The aim of the LEAP-Agri/LEARN consortium meeting was to strengthen the network on arboviruses and One Health between Europe, South Africa and Cameroon.

Arthropod-borne viruses or arboviruses are viruses that are transmitted to animals and humans through blood-sucking arthropods such as mosquitoes, ticks and midges (vectors) and have been associated with some of the most important emerging and re-emerging viral epidemics of the past century.

The meeting also served as a platform to invite arbovirus researchers in South Africa to collaborate and for UP students who are part of the Zoonotic Arbo and Respiratory Virus Research Program to share insight on their various research projects. 

Head of the programme at UP Professor Marietjie Venter highlighted the importance of using the network to encourage collaboration.

“The Long-term Europe-African Research Network (LEARN) project aims to contribute to the preparedness of Europe and Africa for (re)emerging arboviruses through the development and implementation of serological and molecular tools for diagnoses and epidemiological investigations of neglected African arboviruses.”

The collaboration aspect was evident in the diversity of presenters which included Dr Martin H Groschup, Director of the Institute of Novel and Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute in Germany; Professor Jeroen Kortekaas of the Wageningen Bioveterinary Research University in the Netherlands; Dr Abel Wade, Director of Cameroon’s National Veterinary Laboratory and Visiting lecturer of the University of Yaounde I; and local guests Professor Misheck Mulumba, Director of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research; and Dr Janusz Paweska, Director of the Centre for Emerging Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

The meeting included presentations where speakers shared insight on common and neglected zoonotic neurological arboviruses in Africa including West Nile virus, Sindbis virus and Middelburg virus, Shuni virus, Wesselsbron virus and Rift Valley Fever.

- Author Mmane Boikanyo

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