The Thomson Group


Emma Thomson research

Research programmes: 

Acute HCV UK:

My laboratory focusses on investigation of the mechanisms behind spontaneous clearance of early hepatitis C infection (up to 50% of infected individuals clear the virus without treatment) in order to advance the search for an effective vaccine. We follow a cohort of more than 200 patients in Glasgow and London who have been identified with early infection and who have been recruited and followed-up regularly following diagnosis. We aim to identify novel B and T cell epitopes recognised during acute HCV infection using next-generation sequencing of the entire genome and functional assays including flow cytometry, ELISpots, neutralisation assays and replicon systems. This project is funded by Wellcome.

‌Hepatitis C diversity and response to treatment in sub-Saharan Africa

While hepatitis C is well characterised in Europe and the United States, the diversity of strains in Africa are quite different and clinical trials have not been carried out in the region. We have recently identified genotypes, rare in Europe but common in Africa that are associated with a reduced response to direct acting antiviral treatments. It will be essential to monitor response to treatment carefully in sub-Saharan Africa in order to achieve the WHO target of elimination by 2030.

Image of a monkey sitting in a tree in a forest in Uganda. Photograph taken by Dr Emma Thomson

New and emerging viral infections in Africa: Emerging viral infections are an ever-present threat to human and animal health and have often emerged from sub-Saharan Africa. The risk of transmission of viruses to previously unexposed populations has increased as a result of increased global travel, global warming and changes in our ecosystem and human behaviour. In the last 100 years, the emergence of HIV has resulted in at least 35 million deaths while more recently, Zika virus and Ebola virus caused health crises requiring major local and international interventions. Other viral infections (including unidentified infections) remain an unquantified threat to human and animal health. In order to address these risks effectively, major efforts need to be made to improve the infrastructure for identifying risks, developing treatments and vaccines and implementing these interventions in real time.

A vital tool used to detect potential threats in human, animal and environmental samples is next generation sequencing (NGS). We are currently using NGS to detect new and emerging viruses in East and West Africa (Uganda) in febrile undiagnosed patients. We are also engaged in improving local diagnostic capacity in the MRC centres in these countries so that undiagnosed new or emerging infections may be detected at source in the future, allowing more rapid control interventions. The CVR provided diagnostic support for the UK response to the Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone (Dr Davis from my laboratory) and we were also involved in local real-time sequencing of EBOV from an infected patient with disease recurrence in Glasgow. These emerging viral infection projects are funded by the MRC and by the Scottish Research Council.

In February 2020 we commenced sequencing of the novel coronavirus SARS2-CoV within the UK in collaboration with the Universities of Liverpool and Edinburgh.

Current research

Research group members

Patawee Ansapham

Patawee Asamaphan
Research Assistant

Shirin Ashraf

Shirin Ashraf
Research Assistant

Chris Davis
Research Associate

Martin Norris
Project Administrator

 

 Marc Niebel
 PhD Student

 

 Rajiv Shah
Clinical Research Fellow

 

 James Shepherd
Clinical Research Fellow

Visiting Students

Stella Atim (Makerere University), Martin Mayanja, Alfred Ssekagiri and Prossy Namuwulya (Uganda Virus Research Institute).

MRC, University of Glasgow and CVR logos