My research is about the herpes virus and its role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
My research is about the herpes virus and its role in the development of Alzheimer's disease. Previous research has included viral zoonoses - that is, viral diseases that are spread between animals and humans, as well as influenza viruses and their role in history.
Fredrik Elgh studied the tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) and its chromosomal gene in the early 1980s in the first eukaryotic cell and molecular biology laboratory in Umeå, which was then led by Dr. Tomas Edlund and Dr. Tor Ny. The work with this protein, essential in blood clot dissolution for clinical use and tumour development as well as in developmental biology, led to Fredrik Elgh’s licentiate thesis in 1986.
After completing his medical studies and becoming a licenced medical doctor, he returned to research while doing specialist studies in clinical virology. That research was on the body's antibody reactions to hantaviruses, primarily the Puumala virus which is the local haemorrhagic fever virus in Sweden. Northern Sweden, especially the county of Västerbotten, is the area with the greatest incidence of hantavirus in the world and therefore it is important to have good diagnostic ability, which became the main subject of the thesis. Robust antibody diagnostics with recombinantly produced antigen became the main theme of the thesis that Fredrik Elgh defended in 1996, at the same time as he became a specialist in clinical virology.
Elgh’s newly gained knowledge led to a position at the then Swedish National Defence Research Institute (FOA, today FOI, the Swedish Defence Research Agency) in Umeå, his role being primarily to start up virology-based work activities. That work benefited greatly from the year Fredrik Elgh spent in one of the world's foremost hantavirus laboratories, led by Dr. Connie Schmaljohn of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland. The research collaboration that Fredrik Elgh participated in there was basic experimentation with genetic vaccines, in this case DNA vaccines against the hantavirus. During the ensuing decades, this led to sophisticated genetic vaccines against a wide range of pathogenic viruses. Today, perhaps the most interesting of these are the mRNA vaccines which are currently highly relevant in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic that SARS-CoV-2 caused, starting around the turn of the year 2019/2020.
On the basis of his knowledge of virological diagnostics and his experience of vaccinology, Fredrik Elgh was appointed head of the newly started Knowledge Centre for Microbiological Preparedness (KCB) at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (today part of the Public Health Agency of Sweden) in Solna on Karolinska Institutet's campus. KCB was responsible for building up Sweden’s security laboratories, especially those in the Biosafety level 4 class, where work was conducted on the most dangerous pathogenic microorganisms such as Ebola virus and Marburg virus. KCB also set up diagnostics for this type of microorganism, for example, in collaboration with USAMRIID and the Russian VECTOR Institute. Due to its capacity, KCB was also an important node in the European network for the diagnosis of particularly dangerous microorganisms. At that time (1999-2003), the work was financed with funding from the National Board of Health and Welfare and the Swedish Armed Forces and was therefore located at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control. In addition to research and the diagnosis of particularly serious viral infections, KCB was also tasked with gathering and making available knowledge about this type of microorganism. In the aftermath of what is known as 9/11, dangerous anthrax spores came to be spread by mail in the USA, a terrorist incident that had a major impact and was a threat that affected Sweden too. Together with FOA, KCB was tasked to take care of and meticulously investigate the contents of hundreds of shipments that were seen as threats in our country, the organisation’s first major task.
The research conducted at KCB dealt with the diagnosis of haemorrhagic fever as well as studies of pathogenic mechanisms of the Ebola virus and the Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever virus. Basic molecular virology studies were also done on the flavivirus and viruses in the Bunyaviridae family.
Fredrik Elgh was appointed professor of virology at Umeå University in the autumn of 2009. Since then, his research has been located at the Department of Clinical Microbiology there.