Virus hunters: Tracking emerging and zoonotic viruses in South Africa

September 26, 2017The Orbit Johannesburg
Doors open: 18:30
Start programme: 20:00
The Orbit
81 De Korte St, Braamfontein

What are emerging and zoonotic viruses? What is the risk for South Africa? Why are respiratory and mosquito transmitted viruses of particular risk for outbreaks in humans and animals? Can monitoring of horses, domestic animals and wildlife be used as an early warning system for disease outbreaks in humans?

What is a One Health approach and why is it needed to track and eliminate zoonotic pathogens?

From Avian Influenza to West Nile and Zikavirus, emerging viruses have been responsible for major outbreaks internationally over the past decade. The majority of emerging viruses originated in animals and can be transmitted either directly to humans or through mosquito or other biting insect vectors. To combat these viruses, which pose a serious threat to human and animal health, one needs to adopt an integrated program referred to as a One Health approach: one that takes into consideration human and animal health as well as environmental factors. Because of the risk of transmission and outbreaks in humans and animals, these viruses can only be handled in high security or specialized containment laboratories.

In tonight's session of Science & Cocktails, Marietjie Venter will describe the work that
she and her team in the Emerging Vector and Respiratory Virus Program, within the Centre for Viral Zoonoses at the University of Pretoria, is involved in, in terms of research and surveillance on respiratory and mosquito transmitted viruses that can cause severe neurological and respiratory disease in humans and animals.

We will find out about the surveillance network established by the team, which includes virologists, veterinarians, doctors and ecologists, to trace emerging and zoonotic viruses in South Africa and use state of the art technology to discover new viruses and determine their risk and pathogenesis to humans and animals internationally. Marietjie Venter will explain how her team has already described viruses such as West Nile virus, Middelburgvirus and Shunivirus in humans and animals in the country. Finally, she will describe the diagnostic, surveillance and control strategies that she and her colleagues have developed in order to respond to future outbreaks as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Image: Capsid (Daniel Friedman/flickr)

Talk by

Marietjie Venter

Marietjie Venter is professor in Medical Virology and head of the Emerging vectorborne & respiratory virus program in the Centre for Viral Zoonoses at the University of Pretoria. She is an expert in influenza and other respiratory viruses as well as zoonotic and mosquito transmitted viruses in humans and animals. She acts as advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Respiratory viruses and Influenza pandemic preparedness and serves on the Scientific Advisory board of the
Global One Health Platform on Zoonotic diseases. Besides her scientific interest, she has a special interest in horses and is a keen dressage rider and breeding member of the SA Warmblood horse society.

Marietjie Venter

Music by

Uncuthu The Firm

Uncuthu The Firm is an Umguyo music group composed of Lulama Lujah Sokoni, Senzosakhe Ta-Sebz Khwalo Yalezo, Ntsindiso Clix Noqhamza, Sinovuyo Sinomxhosa Yalezo. Originally from the Eastern Cape, their craft is highly influenced by Isixhosa, but they also sing in English and various other African launguages. Their music is
mostly presented acapella, but they also feature certain instruments/bands from time to time. Uncuthu The Firm came to existence in June 2015 and the group has just released its first single. They continue breaking new grounds, building healthy relationships, and opening up to critics and advices.

Uncuthu The Firm