Stellenbosch University COVID-19 research collaborations with African Partners
Partnering with other universities and research institutions across the continent, academics at Stellenbosch University are contributing to various initiatives to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof Razeen Davids and colleagues from the Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine at our Faculty of Medicine and Health Science (FMHS) are collecting data on patients being treated for renal failure with chronic dialysis and transplantation and using the registry platform to capture data on COVID-19 in dialysis and transplant patients. Countries that are part of this initiative include South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Burundi and Botswana.
Dr. Graeme Jacobs from the Division of Medical Virology also at the FHMS is collaborating with the University of Yaounde 1 in Cameroon to better understand the role played by pro-inflammatory cytokines (the cytokine storm) and their involvement in downstream signaling pathways in COVID-19 disease. The measurement of these cytokines are crucial for a better understanding of the COVID-19 disease progression and for assessing immune and therapeutic responses. In another initiative, colleagues at both SU and the University of Botswana are collaborating to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the education systems of both universities.
Prof. Kathryn Chu from Global Health at the FMHS is a panelist on a webinar co-hosted by University of Global Health Equity (Rwanda), InciSioN and Lifebox to discuss and provide solutions to COVID-19 related disruptions to surgical and anesthesia training in sub-Saharan Africa, and how this compares to the global climate. In addition, discussions will focus on evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on surgical and anesthesia training for the future; how curricula plan to address pandemic preparedness and response, how leaders and learners will adapt to the probabilities of delivering surgery and anesthesia teaching remotely, and how student research around surgery and anesthesia will suffer or benefit in the wake of this pandemic. In addition, Prof Chu is am a member of the SADC Surgery, Anaesthesia, and Obstetric Task Force which has written a policy document, for Rapid Scale-up of Emergency (A&E) and Intensive Care (ICU) Services and to SARS-COVID 19 Respiratory Infections & Disease Control (ACR). There are members from multiple African institutions including the University of Cape Town, The University of the Witwatersrand, University of Zambia, University of Botswana, University of Namibia, the University of Zimbabwe in the Task Force. In addition, Prof Chu is involved in a multi-institutional study on patients with COVID-19 undergoing surgery. There are over 100 hospitals in Africa participating in the study.
Prof Susan Hanekom from SU's Division of Physiotherapy at the FMHS, is the Principle Investigator for a multidisciplinary group of researchers which include other research from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Namibia that have partnered with colleagues from the public and private healthcare sectors to explore the clinical course and six-month outcome of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in South Africa and Namibia. The project is laying the groundwork for the management of COVID-19 survivors. Through this project we aim to determine and compare the outcome of COVID-19 survivors. Determining the factors predictive of survival will assist in developing strategies to manage hospitalized patients more effectively. Understanding the health consequences, and the recovery trajectory of COVID-19 survivors is the first step in the planning of rehabilitation services. Rehabilitation services will be needed to ensure optimal function and health-related quality of life of COVID-19 survivors.
Colleagues at the Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies, Department of Global Health at FMHS are continuing to plan the 6th AfriNEAD conference entitled: Disability unplugged - what matters most to persons with disabilities in Africa was planned for Cape Town in November 2020. In the light of COVID-19, colleagues are continuing to offer the conference in the scheduled period but opting to use traditional and technological mediated methods of conference offering. As the pandemic has shined a spotlight on our pre-existing social inequalities and vulnerabilities with persons with disabilities doubly affected - conferences such as the one that will be offered by AfriNEAD in November 2020 need to continue as they offer hope in changing the challenging situation that persons with disabilities face within the region and globally.
At SU, we also host the secretariats for various thematic partnerships with other African Universities. At the Centre for Collaboration in Africa, the secretariats of PeriPeri-U in Disaster Risk Reduction and the AUDA-NEPAD Southern African Network of Water Centres of Excellence (SANWATCE) are coordinating efforts whereby partners are contributing in various national, regional and continental activities specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the partners at Makerere University in Uganda have been a part of the development team of the Coronavirus Resource Centre, a website established to help advance the understanding of the virus, informing the public and briefing policymakers in order to guide response, improve care, and save lives in Uganda. At Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia, colleagues have been working closely with the federal government to provide technical support and advice, contributing to community mobilisation for COVID-19 prevention, treatment and recovery operations action plan, and regional Emergency Operation Centre. Similarly, colleagues at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar, have been working closely with the Ministry of Disaster Risk Management and Ministry of Population, Social Protection and Women Promotion in the country to advise on strategies and raising awareness about COVID-19 in Madagascar.