Clinical Research at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR)
Clinical research is research that involves human participants and the analysis of blood / tissue or other samples taken from these participants.
The choice of clinical research projects in the area of viral infectious diseases is most influenced by the nature/classification of the disease, its effect on human health and the extent of its presence in the human population.
At the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) we manage clinical research projects independently or in collaboration with other researchers or institutions. The principal sources of funding for our research are the Medical Research Council, Wellcome, Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the UK-Rapid Support Team.
At the CVR, our clinical research is centred on the prioritisation of infectious diseases which affect large numbers of people and/or have major effects on those suffering from these diseases. We are currently focusing on:
- respiratory infections (including COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2)
- blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis C
- viral haemorrhagic fevers (such as Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, Ebola and Lassa fever)
We are currently responding to the international COVID-19 crisis in several ways
- Working with Public Health Scotland, the NHS and the University of Edinburgh to sequence SARS-CoV-2 in real-time in order to assist with control of the infection across Scotland as part of the UK-COG consortium
- Investigating the immune response to the virus as part of the ISARIC4C consortium
- Working with the University of Oxford to trial the ChAdOx1 COVID-19 vaccine in frontline healthcare workers
- Screening drugs in partnership with the Gates foundation in our containment level 3 facilities
We collaborate with many researchers and clinical teams from a variety of countries including the UK, Uganda, Malawi, Benin, Kenya and the USA.
Preparing for a bat survey (Arua district, Uganda)
Suggestions for research areas also come from international bodies; the World Health Organisation has nominated several key diseases for urgent research, these include:
- Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF)
- Ebola virus disease
- Marburg virus disease
- Lassa fever
- Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
- Nipah and henipaviral diseases
- Rift Valley fever (RVF)
- Disease X - disease caused by a previously unknown virus
As part of the bigger picture we are also involved in viral disease outbreak preparedness and surveillance projects (see link at bottom of page for further information).
Why respiratory illnesses? The World Health Organisation estimates seasonal influenza causes 290 000-650 000 deaths per year. Occasionally, a more severe outbreak may be associated with a new strain of influenza. Surveillance and control of such new strains is important as they may be more likely to cause severe illness in vulnerable populations. Recently, respiratory infections caused by coronaviruses e.g. SARS, MERS and Covid-19/SARS2 have been responsible for outbreaks of severe illness.
Why hepatitis C? The World Health Organisation estimates 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection; of these, around 400 000 die each year from liver failure and liver cancer. New research methods developed at the CVR have created the opportunity to analyse its structure and susceptibility to treatment in detail and a large research biobank of more than 14,000 samples from the UK is sited at the CVR. Several new strains of hepatitis C have recently been identified from this collection and from several other countries across the world by the Thomson and McLauchlan research labs.
Why haemorrhagic fevers? Haemorrhagic fever viruses represent a significant risk to global health. Researchers at the CVR have been involved in tackling outbreaks of haemorrhagic fever (assisting with diagnosis in West Africa) and in developing new methods to track the infection.
Whole genome sequencing of a patient with hepatitis C
We address four main challenges in our research:
- Finding and categorising new infectious diseases
- Improving the management of outbreaks of viral infectious diseases using novel technologies
- Developing new diagnostic assays for viral infections
- Developing new treatment and vaccine candidates for viruses
These pages summarise our research, outline the progress made in addressing these challenges and explain the rationale behind the choice of clinical research topics.