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Dr Farah Latif

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a common viral infection and up to 90% of 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 3–6 months after transplant, 50% still go on to have the virus in their bloodstream. 

Farah aims to understand 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.

The award is jointly funded by Kidney Research UK and the Wales Clinical Academic Track.

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