Tanya Kerr studied a BSc in Conservation Ecology and worked at Shamwari Game Reserve before combining her background in conservation and her interest in wildlife infectious diseases to obtain her PhD from Stellenbosch University in 2016. Her PhD research focused on the molecular epidemiology and the evolution of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) in African lions and leopards in the Kruger National Park. Her work in the Animal TB Group focuses on developing tools with diagnostic potential for tuberculosis (TB) detection in wildlife species including large felids (African lion, leopard and cheetah), African elephants and various antelope species. Using these tools, we hope to be able to evaluate the epidemiology of TB in these various wildlife species.
Wynand Johan Goosen was a “founding" member of the Animal TB Research Group when it was started in 2014. He upgraded from his MSc to a PhD, which he completed in 2016. His research focus has been immune responses of buffalo and cattle to M. bovis. Since graduating, Wynand joined an internationally known TB research group based at Groote Schuur Hospital, UCT under the mentorship of Prof Keertan Dheda. During his time at UCT, Wynand has learned a lot about designing and developing innovative and new diagnostic molecular tools for the diagnosis of drug-resistant tuberculosis. He spearheaded various therapeutic intervention projects surrounding the treatment of XDR-TB infected patients and co-designed devices able to measure the infectiousness of these patients in the community. Wynand rejoined the Animal TB-Group in 2018 as a postdoctoral research fellow with a focus on TB-related projects in rhinoceros and elephants.
Netanya Bernitz did her MSc at the University of Cape Town working on HIV-1 subtype C transmission. She then worked as a Molecular Biology Product Specialist before beginning her PhD in the Animal TB group. Her project aims to characterize the in vitro cell-mediated immune response of cattle and buffaloes in order to discover novel approaches to the diagnosis of Mycobacterium bovis infection. Orcid: 0000-0003-1199-7005.
Josephine Chileshe did her MSc in Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria. She then worked as a lab manager at a diagnostic veterinary laboratory in Zambia before starting her PhD in the Animal TB group. Her project aims to identify biomarkers and develop diagnostic tests for Mycobacterium bovis infection in African rhinoceros.
Candice de Waal majored in Biochemistry and Genetics for her BSc at Stellenbosch University. She then completed her BSc honours with the Animal TB group, where she started work on developing a real-time PCR assay to genotype species of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. Her Masters' research will focus on the identification of novel cytokine biomarkers for tuberculosis detection in African elephants (Loxodonta africana).
Tina Meiring completed her BSc in Human Life Sciences and honours in genetics at Stellenbosch University. Her honours focused on investigating schizophrenia risk variants for association with antipsychotic treatment response in a South African schizophrenia cohort. For her MSc, she will investigate the genome variation within an African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) population from the Kruger National Park. Determining the degree of genetic diversity in isolated African wild dog populations will promote our understanding of adaptive selection to environmental changes and introduction of novel pathogens in populations. Identifying specific regions of the genome that are associated with diversity and adaptation could lead to the development of novel tools which will improve current conservation decisions and inform genetic management of wild dog populations in game reserves and zoos.
Kat Smith completed a BSc degree in Molecular biology and a BSc honours degree in Microbiology at Stellenbosch University. Her project involved the isolation of pathogenic yeast species and optimisation of biofilm micro-pollutant extraction from Stellenbosch rivers. Her MSc will focus on the evaluation of circulating and cell-mediated candidate biomarkers of early Mycobacterium bovis infection, latency and disease in African buffaloes (Syncerus caffer).
Samantha Goldswain completed her BSc in Molecular Biology, majoring in genetics and microbiology, at Stellenbosch University. Thereafter she moved to the University of Pretoria to pursue her dream of getting into Veterinary school and did her honours in genetics. Her project focused on characterizing the genetic diversity of an invasive wasp species, Leptocybe invasa, a dominant invader of eucalyptus plantations. Her MSc will be focusing on using immunohistochemistry to detect Mycobacterium bovis in suspected cases of bovine tuberculosis in African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) tissue samples from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.