Covington resident Shelley Campbell has traveled all over the world studying deadly diseases from the caves of Uganda to the town of Pune, India to the diverse country of South Africa.
For her most recent work on a vaccine for Rift Valley Fever, a potentially lethal mosquito-borne disease that affects animals and humans, Campbell won the Charles C. Shepard Science Award for Laboratory Science.
More specifically, the award was for her co-authorship of the paper "Rift Valley Fever Virus Vaccine Lacking the NSs and NSm Genes Is Safe, Nonteratogenic, and Confers Protection from Virema, Pyrexia, and Abortion following Challenge in Adult and Pregnant Sheep," a mouthful of a paper that was published in the Journal of Virology.
The award, presented by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is one of the organization's highest honors. Campbell's paper was one of four selected out of the 69 submitted.
"It was a huge honor to represent the group, Viral Special Pathogens," Campbell said.
Campbell, who is a biologist in the diagnostic lab of the Viral Special Pathogens Branch at the CDC, worked as a laboratorian under the leadership of Brian Bird, the principle investigator of the project who created the vaccine and formulated the experiments.
Campbell travelled to South Africa to work in the laboratory provided by the South African based biotechnology company, Deltamune. The sheep were vaccinated and months later injected with the Rift Valley fever virus. Campbell completed serological tests, collecting the blood samples of the sheep and testing for antibodies for the Rift Valley fever virus in the blood.
"I ran thousands of ELISAs (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) to determine if the sheep were protected from the virus," Campbell said.
The presence of antibodies, which attack viruses and bacteria, indicates the body's cells were protected from viral infection. Forty one sheep were used in the experiment, and 100 percent of those vaccinated survived, including the pregnant sheep which progressed to full term and delivered healthy lambs.
"The vaccine doesn't cause abortion," Campbell said.
The paper's message is "to provide a vaccine in those countries affected with the virus."
The CDC has attributed the disease to mosquito bites and contamination from infected animals. It is concentrated in the eastern and southern areas of Africa and can cause hemorrhagic fever, inflammation of the brain, eye disease and in the worst cases, death.
"It [Rift Valley fever virus] is ultimately a human disease. By protecting the livestock, one it protects people's livelihood and protects humans' lives," she said.
Campbell is originally from Ohio and graduated from Bowling Green State University with a BS in Biology in 1995.
She began working as a lead research specialist in Emory University's Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
After a year working at the University of Georgia's Department of Infectious Diseases in the School of Veterinary Medicine, she began her work as a biologist at the CDC.
Campbell has travelled around the world including Uganda, to capture bats potentially carrying the Marburg Virus, and Pune, India to help train scientists who are collaborating with the CDC.
Campbell first found an inclination for biology during high school.
"The AP biology course first got me interested. It's the most exciting field out there to me. It's exciting to work in the lab," she said.
Campbell, a resident of Covington for 14 years, has three girls: Ashley, 16, Emily, 13 and Sarah, 10.