Arbovirus researcher appointed to WHO advisory group

Professor Suresh Mahalingam has been appointed to a WHO taskforce due to his expertise in viral immunology and arboviruses.

Griffith University viral immunologist Professor Suresh Mahalingam has been appointed to a World Health Organization (WHO) advisory group tasked with combatting viruses like dengue and Zika.

The Technical Advisory Group on the Global Integrated Arboviruses Initiative (GIAI) will provide advice to WHO on arboviruses, which are transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks and cause human disease like dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, Zika and Ross River viruses.

Professor Mahalingam, leader of the Emerging Viruses, Inflammation and Therapeutics group at Menzies Health Institute Queensland, will have the chance to make a global impact through his involvement in the Technical Advisory Group.

“It is very satisfying to realise the work I have done over the last 20 years on understanding how arboviruses cause disease and on development of vaccines and antivirals now gives me the opportunity to be involved in this important WHO program,” Professor Mahalingam said.

“I am very excited to be in a position to make a real difference to global health in the field of arboviruses.”

Professor Mahalingam said his appointment to the WHO Technical Advisory Group would allow him to guide policy, research into new vaccines and drugs to combat arbovirus infections like dengue.

“Dengue virus is the most important arbovirus in terms of human health,” he said.

“It affects many tropical and subtropical regions globally, with around 100 million cases each year.

Arboviruses are transmitted by arthropod vectors like mosquitoes.

“Dengue infections range from mild, febrile flu-like illness through to very severe disease that can result in death.

“Despite many years of research, there is still no effective vaccine or treatment for dengue.

“In this position, I will be able to advise WHO about developments in the field and the best approaches for new products, as well as helping WHO select the best projects for further support and accelerate their development.”

Professor Mahalingam is an internationally recognised expertise in arbovirus disease.

His research program at Griffith University has led to a vaccine development program and the re-purposing of anti-inflammatory drugs to treat arbovirus diseases.

“One important goal of this work will be to facilitate passage of new products through clinical trials and the regulatory approval process, before entering into the market,” he said.

“Successful experience in applying my research places me in a strong position to advise others on the best strategy for vaccine and drug development for arbovirus infections.”