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UCT opens first global research centre on killer fungi

11 August 2017 - 14:23 By Timeslive
The University of Cape Town. File photo.
The University of Cape Town. File photo.

The world’s first international research centre for tackling fungal infections – which kill about 1.3 million people globally every year – opened at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Friday.

The majority of deaths related to fungal infections are in Africa‚ particularly sub-Saharan Africa. Here‚ about 50% of people die as a result of invasive fungal infections.

In 2008‚ one million cases of cryptococcal meningitis were reported in patients with HIV‚ resulting in more than 500,000 related deaths‚ UCT said in a statement on Friday.

Professor Mark Nicol‚ head of UCT’s Division of Medical Microbiology in the Department of Pathology‚ said: "This is a wonderful opportunity to develop a centre of excellence for fungal infections on the African continent. We will have the opportunity to extend the pioneering clinical research on fungal infections taking place at UCT by collaborating with scientists studying the biology and immunology of fungal infections at the world-leading centre [at the University of] Aberdeen [UA].

“Now the UA internationally recognised Aberdeen Fungal Group‚ in collaboration with UCT‚ have established the world’s first research centre focused on tackling these diseases in Africa. The R10-million UA’s AFGrica Unit will be based at UCT’s IDM [Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine]‚ headed by Professor Valerie Mizrahi.”

Professor Gordon Brown from the Aberdeen Fungal Group‚ who led the establishment of the AFGrica Unit‚ said: “Fungal infections are understudied and under-diagnosed compared with other infectious diseases‚ despite their contribution to so many deaths every year.

“Fungal infections kill more people in Africa than anywhere else on the planet. The AFGrica Unit is a unique opportunity to address the urgent need to improve basic knowledge and clinical management of fungal infections in Africa.”