Dr Nusirat Elelu
Dr Nusirat Elelu, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Host Institution: University of East London, UK
Fever caused by ticks: towards better diagnosis and treatment
Establishing presence of Ornithodoros ticks in Nigeria and assessment of their potential as vectors of clinical importance
I trained as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Ilorin and obtained my PhD from the University of Bristol (UK) in 2016. I studied trematodes (parasitic flatworms) and tick-borne pathogens that cause serious diseases in cattle; these have significant economic consequences, especially in Africa. Currently, I am teaching veterinary public health at the University of Ilorin and my research focuses on infectious diseases, vector-borne zoonoses (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans) and One Health (http://www.onehealthglobal.net/).
Ticks are the second most important transmitters of disease from animals to humans after mosquitoes and the most important vectors of livestock pathogens. However, the presence of tick-borne pathogens is often under-reported in Nigeria and often misdiagnosed as fever-inducing illnesses such as malaria, due to insufficient information on incidence, distribution and disease control.
My AREF fellowship will help me develop a project to discover how important Ornithodoros ticks are in Nigeria. In particular, I want to find out how much severe human fever these bloodsucking parasites are responsible for. By understanding the full scope of febrile illnesses we can move on to improve their diagnosis. Ultimately, I hope to use better knowledge to improve not only diagnostics but also to inform policy makers on effective point of care treatment strategies.
I will be spending my placement period at the University of East London (UK) with Professor Sally Cutler’s research team. Professor Cutler informed me about the AREF Fellowship scheme, and has inspired and mentored me throughout my application for the award.
Under Sally’s mentorship, I will use techniques still in their infancy in Nigeria, like Whole Genome Sequencing and bioinformatics analysis to study soft tick extracts collected from Nigeria. I will also access transferable skills training such as grant writing, attend a conference and aim to catalyse a lasting collaboration between the Universities of Ilorin and East London.