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LIDC congratulates SACIDS researcher on winning Wellcome Trust Fellowship to study foot-and-mouth disease

Dr. Christopher Kasanga, Senior Lecturer in Virology, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS), has been awarded the Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellowship in Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Kasanga will undertake research on the evolutionary characteristics of the foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) strains in Africa that could be associated with future epidemics on the continent and beyond. The main focus of the fellowship is to understand the molecular basis and factors associated with overt antigenicity and or transmission ability of FMDV in different geographic areas within endemic settings of Southern and East Africa. The unique significance of this project will be identification of early genomic changes that are likely to lead to broader antigenic and virulence, the knowledge of which could be crucial in defining early interventions, including vaccine strain selection before such changes result in wide-scale epidemics of FMD.

A highly contagious disease, FMD affects livestock such as cattle, swine, sheep and goats as well as a variety of cloven hoofed wild animals. Countries like Tanzania and others in Sub-Saharan Africa where this disease occurs are barred from exporting animals and animal products. 

'SUA, SACIDS and Tanzania can be proud that we have groomed a young scientist for such research excellence', said Prof. Mark Rweyemamu, SACIDS Executive Director.  'Apart from the personal attributes of Dr. Kasanga, this was possible thanks to the tremendous support and scientific mentorship of our UK Smart Partners at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Royal Veterinary College, the London International Development Centre and the Pirbright Institute'.

The SACIDS consortium brings together animal and human health researchers from Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, and the UK. SACIDS’ partnership with Royal Veterinary College and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is coordinated by LIDC. The network aims to improve the capacity of African institutions to detect, identify and monitor infectious diseases affecting humans and animals, including new infectious human diseases of animal origin.