The need for a dedicated unit to tackle fungal disease in Africa

The major burden of serious invasive fungal infection is borne by low and middle income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 50% of people diagnosed with invasive fungal infections die as a result of the infection.

To address this issue, the Universities of Exeter and Cape Town (UCT) have joined forces to create the world’s first international research centre for tackling fungal infections; the AFGrica Unit, which opened in Cape Town in August 2017. The University of Exeter AFGrica Unit, directed by Professor Gordon Brown, is based at UCT’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, headed by Professor Valerie Mizrahi, and will give our experts a centre of operations in Africa where they can work in collaboration with UCT experts to establish research programmes that can target the priority areas in fungal diseases that are relevant to the African continent.

Dr J. Claire Hoving is a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellow in Public Health and Tropical Medicine and Senior Lecturer in the Division of Immunology, whose research aims at understanding host immune responses to HIV-related fungal infections. As an Associate Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and a contributing investigator of the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa, her current major focus is understanding the immune response to Pneumocystis jirovecii, which is a common cause of pneumonia and death in patients with HIV/AIDS in Africa and which is estimated to kill over 250 000 worldwide every year.

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Dr Rachael Dangarembizi is an early career neuroscientist in the Department of Human Biology and the Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cape Town whose main research interest is neuroimmune responses to fungal infections. Her current research focusses on the inflammatory response to Cryptococcus neoformans infection in the brain. 

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