The scientists, who all work in the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences, will each work for five weeks in diagnostic laboratories run by Public Health England in the West African country.
Scientists in the laboratories do not work directly with Ebola patients but are vital to the international effort because of the importance of diagnosing cases quickly and accurately.
Dr Hazel Stewart, a 29-year-old researcher who has been working on the hepatitis C virus in the University’s School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, will be the first of the Leeds researchers to be deployed.
She said: “The labs are based near the clinics so the diagnosis can be delivered as quickly as possible. They will send us blood samples from the patients and we will extract and detect Ebola’s genetic material. This lab-based analysis is the most reliable available and they need skilled people on the ground to do it.”
Dr Stewart is currently receiving intensive training for her posting at Public Health England’s laboratories in Porton Down, Salisbury, and is due to travel to Port Loko in Sierra Leone on February 18.
“I am apprehensive and nervous, but excited as well. I became a scientist to help people and this is a clear opportunity to do that,” Dr Stewart said.
“My parents were not happy when I first told them I was going, but they realise that this is what I want to do and this is why I have done all my training.”
Dr Zsofia Igloi, aged 30, an expert in the hepatitis C virus; Dr Rebecca Surtees, 26, who has been researching the bunyavirus family of viruses; and Mr Andrew Buckley, 24, who is in the third year of PhD research into a family of viruses called arenaviruses, will be deployed to Sierra Leone in the coming months.
Mr Buckley, who is expecting to be deployed in March, said: “This is what we come into this field for. If you are a virologist, you want to be active in the fight against dangerous viruses like Ebola. It is something that I feel I have to do because I am a specialist in this area, and this is a unique situation that requires specialized skills.”
Dr Igloi said: “I feel very proud to be playing my part in the network of scientists and medics confronting Ebola in West Africa. As virologists, it is our job to fight disease, and this programme is a particularly clear opportunity to make an immediate impact.”
Dr Surtees said: “I feel it is my responsibility to use the skills I have to help the people of Sierra Leone. I am looking forward to doing work that will help those who are ill with Ebola.”
Professor Mark Harris, Professor of Virology and the head of Dr Stewart’s and Dr Igloi’s research team, said: “The infrastructure required to confront Ebola relies not only on nursing and medical support, but on having the ability to diagnose cases quickly and check when people have recovered. This is part of a national programme led by Public Health England to get the people with the right experience to the affected countries.”
Professor Harris said: “Sierra Leone has been at the centre of the outbreak, but the fact that there has been an international response in recent months and that this efficient screening programme has been put in place has undoubtedly helped slow down the epidemic. There is some evidence that the epidemic may have peaked and the hope is that our researchers may be playing a part in the successful control of the disease.”
Photographs of the researchers who will be working in Sierra Leone are available from the University of Leeds press office.
Contact: Chris Bunting, Press Officer, University of Leeds; phone: +44 113 343 2049 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liz Duncan, Royal Society (Mar 2018), £14,602
Alex O'Neill & Ryan Seipke, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £45,489
Jim Deuchars, Royal Society (Feb 2018), £16,300
Lisa Collins, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £49,950
Alison Baker, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £30,000
Nikita Gamper, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £30,000
Lars Jeuken, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £30,000
Scott Bowen, Leducq Foundation Grant (Feb 2018), £28,470
Jessica Kwok and Ronaldo Ichiyama, International Spinal Research Trust (Feb 2018), £94,450
Alex O'Neill, Oxford Drug Design (Jan 2018), £86,098
Dave Lewis and Colleagues in South Africa, HEFCE Global Challenge Research (Jan 2018), £48,000
Sarah Calaghan, Ed White, John Colyer, Isuru Jayasinghe, BHF (Jan 2018), £128,308
Christine Foyer and Alison Baker, HEFCE GCRF Grant (Jan 2018), £71,158
Alison Baker, Yun Yung Gong and Lindsay Stringer and ICRISAT India, HEFCE GCRF Grant (Jan 2018), £27,000
Graham Askew, Simon Walker, BBSRC (Jan 2018), £699,781
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society (Jan 2018), £512,801
Alison Dunn, NERC (Dec 2017), £18,000
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society-Research Fellows Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £94,681
Helen Miller, AB AGri Grant (Dec 2017), £73,600
Simon Walker, Royal Society Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £10,000
Carrie Ferguson, Bryan Taylor, Harry Rossiter, The Physiological Society (Dec 2017), £7,392
Ralf Richter, Royal Society (Dec 2017), £6,000
Christine Foyer, British Council Newton Fund (Dec 2017), £49,840
Adrian Whitehouse and colleagues in School of Chemistry and University of Liverpool, MRC (Nov 2017), £622,319
Michelle Peckham, Neil Ransom, MRC (Nov 2017), £495,159
Dave Lewis, British Council India (Nov 2017), £22,540
Hannah Dugdale, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Elton Zeqiraj, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Shaunna Burke, Cancer Research UK Innovation Grant (Nov 2017), £20,000
Alex O'Neill and colleagues in Chemistry, BBSRC (Nov 2017), £431,865
Jessica Kwok, Wings for Life (Nov 2017), £87,365
Tom Bennett, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £523,679
Neil Ranson, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £494,318
Nikita Gamper, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £490,426
Amanda Bretman and colleagues from UEA, NERC (Oct 2017), £430,886
Juan Fontana, Rosetrees Trust consumables grant (Oct 2017), £22,500
Helen Miller, DSM Nutritional Products AG (Sep 2017), £69,988
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Jamie Johnston, Physiological Society (Sep 2017), £10,000
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Ralf Richter, David Brockwell, Eric Hewitt, Jessica Kwok, Emanuele Paci and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £600,000
Eric Blair, Adrian Whitehouse, Nicola Stonehouse, Alison Baker, Richard Bayliss, Joan Boyes, Ryan Seipke, Sally Boxall and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £376,000
Stefan Kepinski, Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Tom Bennett, Michelle Peckham, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £331,000
Roman Tuma, Lars Jeuken, Paul Millner, Sheena Radford, Peter Stockley and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £222,000
Vas Ponnambalam, Darren Tomlinson, Stephen Wheatcroft, BHF (May 2017), £107,878
Graham Askew in collaboration with Bangor University, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £477,383
Stephen Muench, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £132,945
Nic Stonehouse, MRC (Mar 2017), £906,341
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Adrian Goldman, EU (Mar 2017), £546,576