UFS strip research

Prof Felicity Burt

Prof Felicity Burt 
Division of Virology
Chair: Vector-borne and Zoonotic Pathogens 2021-2025

Prof Felicity Burt is a Principal Medical Scientist in the Division of Virology at the National Health Laboratory Service and the University of the Free State. She currently holds a South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Pathogens Research. Her research focuses on the detection, pathogenesis, and molecular epidemiology of medically significant arboviruses and viral haemorrhagic fevers found in Southern Africa. Her interests and expertise are in host immune responses to arboviral infections, specifically characterising humoral and cellular immune responses in patients; epitope discovery for the development of diagnostic tools; development of molecular and serological assays for surveillance purposes; virus discovery; and development of vaccines against medically significant arboviruses. She is responsible for the Biosafety Level-3 facility at the university, established primarily for handling zoonotic and arboviral pathogens. She has supervised more than 40 postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows and has more than 90 publications in international peer-reviewed journals. She is an NRF B-rated scientist and an internationally recognised expert on the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus and was an invited member of the WHO-led prioritisation of diseases of epidemic and pandemic threat review for viruses from the Bunyaviridae and Togaviridae families. 

Prof Burt emphasises that the majority of new and emerging viruses are zoonotic in origin and that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic highlights the impact of an emerging zoonotic pathogen on society. Consequently, her research group uses a One Health approach in their surveillance programmes, in which interactions between humans, animal hosts, and the environment are considered in order to further our knowledge and understanding of viruses with public and/or veterinary health implications circulating in nature. In the absence of commercially available assays, the group is adept at developing and validating multiple assays for application in its research. The surveillance confirmed the presence of several viruses with public health implications circulating within mosquito populations in the Free State.

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