​​​​Division of Molecular Biology & Human Genetics


Mycobacteriology: Host-Pathogen Mycobactomics​



 Principal Investigator

Prof. Samantha SamSam 01.jpgpson

Prof Sampson is a tuberculosis (TB) researcher with expertise in mycobacterial genetics, microbiology, immunology and animal models of TB. Prof. Sampson obtained her PhD from Stellenbosch University, and undertook post-doctoral training at the Harvard University School of Public Health and Imperial College London (where she held a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship). Upon being awarded a SARChI Chair in Mycobactomics, she returned to South Africa to establish a research group focused on TB host-pathogen interactions within the  DST/NRF Centre of Exce​llence in Biomedical Tuberculosis Research in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics.

Life outside the lab         Dogs and dog sports!


 Senior Scientists 

Jomein 01.jpg Dr Jomien Mouton
 Understanding the biology of persister populations of M. tuberculosis at the host-pathogen interface

Dr. Mouton was awarded the VALIDATE Early Career Researcher Award ​in November 2018, where she focussed her research on characterising antigens and biosignatures associated with latent tuberculosis infection. Dr. Mouton holds an official affiliate status with Stellenbosch University and remains a valuable member of Host-Pathogen Mycobactomics 

 Email                                        jomien@sun.ac.za

 LinkedIn​                                   ​www.linkedin.com/in/jomien-mouton-12853746/?originalSubdomain=za

 Life outside the Lab               ​My children / Running /​ Pilates




 Post Doctoral Research Fellows

​Dr. Nastassja Kriel  Nastassja 01.jpg
The isolation and characterisation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis persister cells 

Dr. Kriel investigates the genes and pathways required for the formation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis persister bacteria by using transposon libraries and highly accurate sequencing data.

Email                               nastassja@sun.ac.za​

LinkedIn                         ​ ​www.linkedin.com/in/nastassja-kriel-732509a5

Life outside the lab       ​My daughter, Nina / Pets / Baking


​Dr. Bahareh ​Bagheri Bahar 01_cropped.jpg
​Deciphering polymicrobial interactions in tuberculosis using model co-infection systems

​Dr. Bagheri is a researcher with expertise in biotechnology, microbiology and microbial ecology. Dr. Bagheri obtained her PhD from Stellenbosch University in 2018, where she investigated the effect of biotic and abiotic parameters on microbial interactions in a multi-space ecosystem. Following her PhD, Bahareh joined The Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics as a post-doctoral researcher. Her post-doc focusses on studying co-infections in TB patients by investigating the interaction between Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other fungal and bacterial pathogens. 

Email                                   bagheri@sun.ac.za      

LinkedIn                              www.linkedin.com/in/bahar-bagheri-phd-53562a110/

Life outside the lab          Gardening / Juggling / Learning German / Coaching Students     

 PhD Candidates

Trisha 01.jpg​Trisha Parbhoo 
The characterization of Mycobacterium tuberculosis persister cells at a single-cell level

Trisha's PhD project focusses on investigating Mycobacterium tuberculosis persister cells at a single-cell level using fluorescence dilution and flow cytometry. Trisha will assess the impact that bacterial burden, phagocytosis and phagosome acidification have on inducing persister populations upon macrophage uptake 

Supervisor                         Prof. Samantha Sampson

Co-supervisor                   Dr. Jomien Mouton

Email                                  trishap@sun.ac.za

Life outside the lab         Rock climbing


Zimvo 03.jpgZimvo Obasa 
Mycobacterium tuberculosis at the host-pathogen interface

Zimvo's PhD project is split into two main arms: (1) The first arm focusses on characterizing the impact of mycobacterium persisters on host immune responses by measuring intracellular cytokine concentrations and performing RNA extraction on Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected macrophages; (2) Secondly, Zimvo will focus on evaluating the use of our in-house replication reporter system in identifying persister populations in a murine infection model. 

Supervisor                           Prof. Samantha Sampson 

Co-Supervisor                     Dr. Jomien Mouton / Dr. Liezel Smith 

Email                                    maqeda@sun.ac.za

LinkedIn                               www.linkedin.com/mynetwork/invite-connect/connections/

Life outside the lab           Baking / Outfoor Activities

Su-Mari du PlessisSu Mari 02.jpg
Biomimetic nanoparticle-based host-directed therapy (HDT) for the eradication of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Su-Mari's PhD aims at investigating the immune-stimulating effects of polymer-based and metal-organic framework (MOF) nanoparticles (NPs) functionalised with curdlan and mycolic acids. Curdlan is a naturally occurring polysaccharide known to stimulate an antibacterial response and mycolic acids are the dominant class of lipids found on the surface of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Curdlan and mycolic acids are added to the surface of MOF NPs, where they are able to alter the shape of MOF NPs, allowing the NPs to closely mimic Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This will allow Su-Mari to investigate the biomimetic ability of NPs by investigating the stimulated antibacterial immune response. Through the upregulation of the immune response, Su-Mari intends to create a host-directed therapeutic anti-TB approach that focuses on the processes that contribute to mycobacterial killing, rather than the bacterium itself. 

Supervisor                           Prof. Samantha Sampson (SU)

​​​​​​​                                                                                       Co-Supervisor                     Dr. Nelita du Plessis (SU) / Prof. Admire Dube (UWC) / Dr. Josh Reineke (SDSU)

                                                                                       Email                                    sduplessis@sun.ac.za

                                                                                       LinkedIn                               www.linkedin.com/in/su-mari-du-plessis-283442160/

                                                                                       Life outside the lab            Anything sport-related and preferably in nature

 Mpala 02.jpgMpala Pilula 
Population structure, transmission dynamics and pathobiology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Zambia

Mpala is a PhD student in a sandwich program between Stellenbosch University, South Africa (SU) and Copperbelt University, Zambia. Her PhD focusses on understanding the genomic and virulence characteristics that attribute to the current lineage structure and transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Zambia. To achieve this, Mpala will use whole-genome sequencing, bioinformatics and macrophage infection models. 

Supervisor                             Prof. Samantha Sampson (SU) 

Co-supervisor                       Prof. Victor Mwanakasale (Copperbelt University)

Email                                      pilulampala@sun.ac.za

Life outside the lab             Nature watching / Gardening


Esther Uwimaana
Functional characterization of T-cell immunogenicity of PPE_MPTR proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis 

Esther obtained her Master of Science in Immunology and Clinical Microbiology at Makerere University, Uganda. Esther joined the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics in 2021 as a PhD student where she intends to characterize the T-cell immune response to PPE_MPTR proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. 

Supervisor                           Prof. Samantha Sampson

Co-supervisor                     Prof. Andre Loxton

Email                                    euwimaana@sun.ac.za   

Life outside the lab           Spending time with friends / Swimming / Hiking / Travelling 

Pam 01.jpgPamela Ncube 
Molecular and phenotypic characterization of Mycobacterium bovis persisters in South African wildlife

Pamela completed her BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, BSc (Hons) in Microbiology and BSc (MSc) in Molecular Biology in 2015, 2016 and 2020, respectively. Pamela is a "shared" PhD student of the Host-Pathogen Mycobactomics and Animal TB Research Groups. Her PhD aims to validate the in vitro acid stress model of Mycobacterium bovis, explore macrophage-infection models and examine molecular mechanisms involved during these stress conditions. Understanding Mycobacterium bovis persister formation will build fundamental knowledge on whether latent TB disease (asymptomatic state of TB disease) exists within animals or not. 

Supervisor                           Prof. Samantha Sampson

Co-supervisor                     ​Prof. Michele Miller / Dr. Bahareh Bagheri 

Email                                    pncube25@sun.ac.za

LinkedIn                               www.linkedin.com/in/pamela-ncube-45a51256

Life outside the lab           Jogging / Hiking / Sightseeing

 MSc Candidates

Professional photo.jpgLesedi Dikhoba 
Identification of biosignatures associated with latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis 

In her MSc, Lesedi will determine whether macrophages containing actively replicating Mycobacterium tuberculosis ​and viable but non-replicating Mycobacterium tuberculosis have differential macrophage polarisation phenotypes. Lesedi will achieve this by using a combination of fluorescence dilution and flow cytometry. 

Supervisor                         Dr. Jomien Mouton 

Co-supervisor                   Prof. Samantha Sampson 

Email                                  lesedid@sun.ac.za

LinkedIn                             www.linkedin.com/in/lesedi-dikhoba-116661120/

Life outside the lab          Cooking / Singing / Afrobeat Dancing / Creating YouTube Videos 

Julian.jpgJulian Coetzee 
Investigating the relationship between persister formation and clinical outcome in tuberculosis patients.

​Julian obtained his undergraduate and honours degrees in Biotechnology from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), where his main focus was elucidating secondary metabolites from Actinobacteria. In 2019, Julian joined the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics as a Master's candidate where he focussed on evaluating the correlation between persister formation and pulmonary TB disease outcome. 

Supervisor                           Dr. Jomien Mouton 

Co-supervisor                     Prof. Samantha Sampson / Dr. Anzaan Dippenaar

Email                                    jlcoetzee@sun.ac.za

Life outside the lab           Hiking / Baking / Cooking




 TJ 03.jpgTom Jack Bartizal 
 Investigating the localization of the PPE_MPTR proteins at the host-pathogen interface

TJ's MSc project focusses on an understudied sub-family of proteins native to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, known as the PPE_MPTR proteins. There are some studies that suggest biologically relevant roles of some PPE_MPTR proteins, however, the fundamental aspects of this protein sub-family are poorly understood. TJ's MSc aims to provide insight into the secretion and localisation of selected PPE_MPTR proteins in order to better understand their role at the host-pathogen interface. 

Supervisor                              Prof. Samantha Sampson 

Co-supervisor                        Dr. Nastassja Kriel

Email                                       bartizaltj@sun.ac.za

LinkedIn                                  www.linkedin.com/in/tom-bartizal-69298b153

Life outside the lab              Hiking / Video Games / Ghost Hunting


Raadhiyah MatheeRM_fun.jpg
​Tracking persisters in Mycolicibacterium smegmatis biofilms

Raadhiyah joined The Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics as an honours student in 2020. In 2021, Raadhiyah started her MSc degree where she will be exploiting a Mycolicibacterium smegmatis biofilm model using a flow cell system to understand mycobacterial persister formation and phenotypes. 

Supervisor                             Prof. Samantha Sampson

Co-supervisor                       Dr. Jomien Mouton / Dr. Bahareh Bagheri

Email                                     rmathee@sun.ac.za

Life outside the lab            Gardening (mostly herbs and succulents) / Spending time at the beach / Watching TV                                                           shows about rare medical conditions / Reading murder mysteries


 Hons Candidates 

IMG_3558.JPGTayla Juliet Smith 
​Functional Characterization of PPE_MPTR proteins

​Tayla obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Chemistry from Stellenbosch University in 2020. She joined the Host-Pathogen Mycobactomics Research Group as an honours student in 2021, and her project involves the functional characterization of Mycobacterium tuberculosis PPE_MPTR proteins. 

Supervisor                            Dr. Nastassja Kriel

Co-supervisor                      Prof. Samantha Sampson

Email                                     tsmith@sun.ac.za

Life outside the lab             ​Reading / Watching true crime and medical documentaries / Spending time with friends