Tuberculosis Host Genetics
Prof Eileen Hoal joined Stellenbosch University in 1983 after a postdoc at the Roche Institute in New Jersey and established a high-quality cell culture facility in the department. The focus of the department changed to tuberculosis (TB) research in the 1990s and she was at the forefront of this change, investigating host-pathogen interactions in macrophages. This progressed to the question of genetic susceptibility, which has been her focus for the last 15 years. She was one of the first three PIs in the department to obtain external research funding, by GlaxoWellcome Action TB for a period of 4 years. She established a Biosafety level 3 lab in the department. She was the South African PI of a human genetic epidemiology study funded by the Sequella Global TB Foundation (now Aeras) and was the lead author on several
Glenda Durrheim has an MSc in Medical Biochemistry from Stellenbosch University and works in the Division, employed by PAWC (Tygerberg Hospital). Currently she is investigating genes involved in primary immunodeficiency disorders (PIDs), which may point to new candidate genes that play a role in susceptibility to tuberculosis. This builds upon earlier work investigating the cellular immune response to tuberculosis. Previously she investigated the genetic basis of long QT syndrome, an inherited heart disease, in the South African population and still offers molecular diagnosis for new members of affected families. Molecular diagnostic tests are being developed for local PIDs patients.
Dr Glynis Johnson is a protein biochemist whose work has concentrated on the cholinesterases and cholinesterase-like proteins, their evolution and adaptation to developmental and neurodegenerative processes. She has recently extended this work to bacteria, specifically, pathogen-host interactions during mycobacterial infection.
Dr Craig Kinnear obtained his PhD at Stellenbosch University in 2007. For his PhD, he focused on identifying novel genetic predisposing factors involved in the pathogenesis of obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. Furthermore, he investigated signaling pathways involved in neuronal migration and brain development. Following his PhD, Dr Kinnear's research interest shifted towards studying the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of cardiac hypertrophy in patients with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. In 2013, he joined the TB host genetics team where he is currently focusing on identifying disease-causing mutations in patients with primary immunodeficiencies who are extremely susceptible to tuberculosis. In addition to this, he is also investigating the extent to which different Mycobacteria tuberculosis strains induces autophagy in the human host.
Dr Marlo Möller has worked in the field of human genetic susceptibility since joining the TB Host Genetics group as a BSc(Hons) student in 2004. She received her PhD in 2007 from Stellenbosch University and is currently the holder of a prestigious Research Career Advancement Fellowship from the South African National Research Foundation. She is involved in several host genetic susceptibility to tuberculosis projects (some in the department and some together with international collaborators from Germany and the USA) which include tuberculous meningitis susceptibility, the role of ancestry in TB disease and primary immune deficiencies.
Dr Cedric Werely is an alumnus of both the University of Cape Town (B.Sc. 1983) and Stellenbosch University (Ph.D., 2012). He joined the Stellenbosch faculty in 1984 (Dept. of Urology) and moved to his current position in 1990. In that time his research interests have spanned tumours of the prostate, mechanisms involved in the descent of the testes, DNA fingerprinting, and host genetics in tuberculosis. Currently he is invested in the development of TB diagnostics, as well as studying the Pharmacogenetics of drug treatment regimens, especially drugs used in the treatment of tuberculosis.
Dr Eric Banda obtained his PhD in Molecular & Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town in 2013. He joined the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University in June 2014 as a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Host Genetics of TB research group. Eric is currently investigating host susceptibility to TB by studying individuals who are genetically predisposed to mycobacterial infections. More specifically, he is using Next-Generation Whole Exome sequencing to identify novel disease causing mutations in patients with Primary Immunodeficiency Disorders (PIDs) - a group of inherited disorders in which part of the body's immune system is defective.
Dr Michelle Daya is a data scientist with a background in software development and statistics. She obtained her PhD from Stellenbosch University. She applies her computational and data analysis skills to large genetic data sets. In February 2015 she received a Consolidoc award from Stellenbosch University. The award is a publication incentive scheme for recent Ph.D. graduates which serves as a bridge to next steps in their research careers. She will estimate the heritability and do a linkage analysis of the immune response after in vitro exposure to mycobacterium, using genome-wide data collected from a family-based study.
Dr Nikki le Roex completed her PhD in Molecular Biology at Stellenbosch University in 2014, in which she investigated the genetic basis for susceptibility to TB in African buffalo. Now working as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the department, her current research explores innate and endemic risk factors for TB in susceptible wildlife species. She is particularly interested in utilising molecular and genetic techniques to solve or mitigate conservation problems.
Dr Muneeb Salie joined the TB Host Genetics lab in 2008 as a BSc(Hons) student and completed his PhD in Human Genetics in 2014. For his PhD he investigated the role of the KIR and HLA genes in susceptibility to TB in a South African population. As an NRF Scarce Skills Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Salie is involved in two research projects in the group, viz. (1) Identifying the genetic aetiology predisposing individuals to TB and diabetes comorbidity and (2) Investigating the induction of autophagy by different M. tuberculosis strains.
Nicholas Bowker obtained a BSc. (Hons) Human Genetics in the Department in 2014. He is currently in his first year of completing his MSc. Human Genetics in host genetic susceptibility to tuberculous meningitis. Specifically his project revolves around exome sequencing of TBM cases and healthy controls to determine rare polymorphisms that may be associated with TBM in the study population and to discover novel polymorphisms attributed to TBM susceptibility in the study population. Additionally he is genotyping cases and controls of both TBM and pulmonary TB using the MEGA Array to determine the association of common polymorphisms. Furthermore using this data, a heritability analysis in unrelated individuals is proposed, with the aim of determining the heritability of TBM-specific susceptibility polymorphisms.
Alma Polson obtained her BSc in Human Life Science at Stellenbosch University. She completed her BSc(Hons) in Biochemistry at North West University, where she investigated the biological variance of leucine levels in human serum by application of GC-MS method. Currently she is doing an MSc in Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University, where she will focus on investigating the induction of autophagy by different Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains to see if strain specific differences exist
Nikola Schlechter completed her BSc in Human Life Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch, after which she completed a BSc (Hons) in Medical Physiology. She is currently busy with her MSc in Human Genetics, in which she is using next generation whole exome sequencing in order to identify tuberculosis susceptibility genes by focussing on disease-causing mutations in patients with primary immunodeficiency disorders.
Haiko Schurz has a BSc (Hons) in Human genetics from Stellenbosch University's medical campus. The honours project looked into variations in the TOLLIP gene and how they influence TB susceptibility in the SAC population. Currently in his first year of masters and aiming to identify X chromosome variants that could influence TB susceptibility in SAC population. He is particularly interested in bioinformatic and biostatistics techniques and aims to utilise these to shed some light on the complexity involved in X chromosome analysis.
Caitlin Uren completed her BSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Cape Town in 2013 and her BSC (Hons) at Stellenbosch University in 2014. She is currently completing her 2nd year of Masters looking at the population structure present in southern Africa as well as the implications of this structure on susceptibility to tuberculosis.
BSc (Hons) students
Victoria Cole completed her BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry at the University of Cape Town. She is currently undertaking a BSc (Hons) in Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University. Her work entails the functional characterisation of the ISG15 gene in TB susceptibility.
Anel Sparks has a BSc (Molecular Biology and Biotechnology) from Stellenbosch University. She is currently undertaking a BSc(Hons) in Human Genetics and also works as a part-time research assistant for the group.
Talani van Schalkwyk obtained her BSc Molecular biology and biotechnology at Stellenbosch University. She is currently a BSc(Hons) student in Human Genetics and will investigate the role of the LTA4H gene in TB and TBM susceptibility.