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Understanding how kidney transplant patients respond to cytomegalovirus infection

03 June 2021

With our funding, Dr Farah Latif from Cardiff University will continue her amazing work investigating the effect of cytomegalovirus in patients who have had a kidney transplant.

Dr Farah Latif in the lab
Dr Farah Latif

Cytomegalovirus can be dangerous for kidney patients

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a common viral infection and most people in the UK have been infected with it at some point in their lives. Normally, the immune system controls the virus and it generally causes few, if any, symptoms — but it remains silently present in the body after infection.

Because people with kidney transplants take drugs to suppress their immune systems and stop organ rejection, they are vulnerable to HCMV infection. Without treatment, HCMV can cause a severe illness affecting many different organs, including the lungs, liver, and bowel.

HCMV is particularly dangerous in patients who haven’t been exposed to the virus but receive a kidney from an infected donor. Although these patients are treated with antiviral drugs for three to six months after transplant, half of them still go on to have the virus in their bloodstream.

Understanding the immune response

Farah’s fellowship grant will allow her to investigate how HCMV interacts with the immune system in kidney transplant recipients and how the immune system fights this infection.

She will examine how molecules called cytokines — the soluble messengers of the immune system — help to control infection in those who receive a kidney transplant containing HCMV, and how the virus has adapted to manipulate cytokine responses in these patients.

Understanding HCMV infection in kidney transplant patients is the first step towards developing new antiviral drugs to protect patients from this harmful virus.

Funding future leaders

Farah has been awarded a clinical training fellowship grant in partnership with The Stoneygate Trust and the Wales Clinical Academic Track programme from Health Education and Improvement Wales. These fellowships are awarded to medical doctors who wish to get specialist training in kidney research.

Farah said: “I am thrilled to have been awarded a Kidney Research UK Training Fellowship to complete my PhD studies investigating antiviral immunity to cytomegalovirus after kidney transplantation. Working with the charity to address this crucial clinical problem will give unprecedented insight into this vital area of research, and kick start my clinical academic career.”

Find out more

Read more about our newly funded research.

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