EDCTP Senior Research Fellowship awarded to Dr Georgia Schäfer
12 Aug 2019 - 09:30
This Women's Month the IDM celebrates the recent announcement of the Institute's third recipient of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) Senior Research Fellowship.
This five-year fellowship/training grant for the Department of Integrative Biomedical Sciences’ researcher means a little more stability and some breathing room to focus on the work at hand. “As a soft-funded researcher my job situation has always been uncertain,” says Schäfer. The grant will also mean more hands on deck, “I’m increasing my group by recruiting new Post Doc, PhD, and Masters students which I will train. Thus, I will be able to embark on projects that take longer and are more complex and involved.”
The project, Characterisation of KSHV-driven pathologies and disease outcome in HIV-infected patients, looks at Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV) which is highly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. This virus is associated with AIDS-related malignancies such as Kaposi sarcoma (KS), primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), multicentric Castleman disease (MCD), as well as a proposed KSHV inflammatory cytokine syndrome (KICS).
Based on previous research where Schäfer’s group demonstrated an association of elevated KSHV viral load (VL) with mortality among HIV-infected South African patients presenting with suspected but microbiologically unconfirmed TB, she now proposes to develop novel cohorts of South Africans with HIV and low CD4 count (<350 cells/µL) to characterize the clinical correlates and sequelae of elevated blood KSHV VL, and to evaluate human and viral genetic risk factors for elevated KSHV VL.
Her team is investigating whether it is possible to detect the virus in the patient’s blood and diagnose and/or predict KSHV-associated disease outcome. “When people go for routine HIV and/or TB care, KSHV testing is not included. Since KSHV is highly prevalent in South Africa, and since it can cause various nonspecific symptoms that can potentially be misdiagnosed as HIV-TB, we want to see whether KSHV testing should become part of the routine clinical work-up protocol for HIV-infected patients,” says Schäfer.
This research will inform the development of KSHV molecular testing for improved diagnostic, prognostic and monitoring of people living with HIV. Itwill contribute to the field of pathogenesis of KSHV-associated malignancies.