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Science, AgriSciences, Health Sciences students victorious at SU’s FameLab heat, AgriSciences, Health Sciences students victorious at SU’s FameLab heatCorporate Communication and Marketing/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>​​Tallulah Glasby, a master's student in microecology at Stellenbosch University (SU), has won the SU heat of the 2024 national <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">FameLab</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>competition.</p><p>The event took place on Wednesday (8 May) at the SU LaunchLab. Eduard Zehrt, a master's student in food science, and Carene Ndong Sima, a doctoral student in human genetics, finished second and third respectively. Glasby walked away with R4 000, while Zehrt and Ndong Sima both pocketed R3 000. Ndong Sima also received an extra R1 500 after also being named as the audience choice winner. The prize money was co-sponsored by the Postgraduate Office at SU and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies Prof Sibusiso Moyo.</p><p>Considered to be one of the biggest science communication and public speaking competitions in the world, FameLab, which is also a development initiative, creates a platform for young emerging scientists to speak to public audiences about their work.</p><p>Glasby, Zehrt and Ndong Sima were among 17 master's and doctoral students who were given only three minutes to share their research with the audience. As the winner of the heat, Glasby will represent SU at the national semi-finals in September where she will compete against the winners of heats at other universities in South Africa.<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><ul><li>​Cellphone users click <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">here </strong></a>for video.<br></li></ul><p><strong>Glasby</strong> won the heat for her talk on the community of organisms living at the surface of soils called biological soil crusts. “These microorganisms produce essential nutrients for the environment and for life, enrich the soil, and allow other organisms to inhabit these areas. They also act as a sponge by absorbing and retaining moisture in the soil and creating tiny oases for other soil organisms."</p><p>Commenting on her win, Glasby said that even though her victory was unexpected, it was an amazing experience to share her work with the public. She was also grateful for the science communication skills she gained at the pre-event workshop.</p><p>In his presentation, <strong>Zehrt</strong> shared how he is using hyperspectral cameras – they work exactly like the cameras in cellphones – to analyse what is inside food and to combat food fraud. Focusing on chicken, he said this allows him to determine how fresh and tender the meat is and to even check if bacteria are growing on the surface. “With my research, I'm able to distinguish between free range and conventional chicken with 80% accuracy."</p><p>Zehrt said it was an enjoyable experience to talk about his research in this way. He encouraged other students to take part in the FameLab heat.</p><p>In her talk, <strong>Ndong Sima </strong>emphasised the need for a patient-centred approach to treat Tuberculosis. She said it is important to look at our genes because they can tell us how people would respond to treatment. “Having people's genetic profile, we can then predict which patient would be more at risk of treatment failure before treatment initiation. That would be a game changer."</p><p>Ndong Sima said she was surprised to be among the winners. She commended the judges and instructors for helping her to be comfortable in front of an audience and to share her research.</p><p>In her welcoming speech, Prof Moyo touched on the importance of science communication and said researchers need to show how their work benefits society. “We want the next generation of scientists, masters and doctoral students who can share their research strategically and impactfully with a wider audience." </p><p>The SU FameLab heat was organised by Jive Media Africa and the Postgraduate Office, which forms part of the Division for Research Development. The judges were Wiida Fourie-Basson (Faculty of Science), Maambele Khosa (Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation), Marina Joubert (Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology) and Fumani Jwara (South African Research Chair in Science Communication).</p><p>A masterclass in science communication and public speaking will be presented prior to the national semi-finals by a trainer brought in from the United Kingdom (UK) by the British Council. The top ten from the semi-finals will compete at the national finals and the winner of FameLab SA will represent South Africa at the international finals in the UK.</p><ul><li><strong>Photo</strong>: Carene Ndong Sima, Tallulah Glasby and Eduard Zehrt at the FameLab heat. <strong>Photographer</strong>: Stefan Els​<br></li><li><strong>Video of FameLab heat by Stefan Els</strong><br></li></ul><p>​<br></p>
Genes play an important role in TB susceptibility play an important role in TB susceptibilityFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie – Sue Segar<p>​New research shows that genetics play a significant role in a person's susceptibility to developing tuberculosis (TB).<br></p><p>Researchers at Stellenbosch University (SU) are part of a scientific consortium investigating genetic susceptibility to TB that found genetics contribute about 26 percent to a person's likelihood of acquiring TB.<br></p><p>The study, conducted by the International Tuberculosis Host Genetics Consortium and led by Dr Haiko Schurz of SU's Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics and Dr Vivek Naranbhai affiliated with the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and numerous other institutions, studied people from different backgrounds to find common genetic factors that affect TB risk globally. The <a href="" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="text-decoration:underline;">research article</span></a>, entitled 'Multi-ancestry meta-analysis of host genetic susceptibility to tuberculosis identifies<em> </em>shared genetic architecture', was recently published in the journal <em>eLife</em>. <br></p><p>“We gathered data from 12 studies in nine countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, including over 14 000 people with TB and almost 20 000 who did not have TB," says Prof Marlo Möller of SU's Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, who was also involved in the study. “By studying people from different backgrounds, we hoped to find common genetic factors that affect TB risk globally."<br></p><p>Everyone exposed to <em>Mycobacterium tuberculosis</em> (the bacterium that cause TB) will not become infected with it, and of those who are infected, not all will go on to develop active TB disease.<br></p><p>“Many studies have been done to find out how our genes affect our chances of getting TB. As these studies get bigger or use newer, better ways to look at genes, it is important to put all the data together to see which gene variations are linked to TB risk," explains Möller.<br></p><p>Previous research conducted on small groups of people either found nothing, or results could not be extrapolated to other groups. Pooling data from different studies into a meta-analysis increases the likelihood of finding meaningful results.<br></p><p>“In our study, we combined datasets from different ancestries which allowed us to find our results – that 26,3 percent of the likelihood of getting TB is due to our genes. This holds true for different backgrounds, showing that our genes play a big role in the disease," says Möller.<br></p><p>Scientists have been interested in how genes affect the chances of getting TB for a long time. “More than 100 genes have been studied, but only a few connections have been confirmed in different studies. This might be because the studies did not include enough samples, or they used different methods, or because people in different areas have different genetic backgrounds," explains Möller.<br></p><p>“Additionally, the TB bacterium itself might differ in different places. Before our meta-analysis, there have been 17 studies that looked at genetic variants across the genome in relation to TB susceptibility, only two regions of the genome have shown up in more than one study. One was found in people from Ghana and Gambia, and was also seen in South Africa and Russia. Another genetic region found in Russia was also confirmed in other studies."<br></p><p>According to Möller, the consortium plans to use the dataset further, and have at least two other manuscripts in the pipeline.<br></p><p>“Because TB is complex and the effects of genes are usually small, we need bigger groups of people and different ways to study genetics. Generating genetic data using more appropriate microarrays [tools used for gene analysis] that includes information from a wider range of people, along with better techniques for filling in missing genetic data, can help us gather bigger and more reliable sets of information for future studies. <br></p><p>“Also, using new technologies like long-read sequencing to look closely at specific genes related to TB susceptibility can be helpful. Having more genetic data will let us analyse genetic susceptibility to TB more accurately and explore how different genes work together in fighting off the disease."<br></p><p>Möller says the study demonstrates “how working together and sharing data can help us understand tricky problems and figure out what makes people more likely to get complex diseases like TB."<br></p><p>​<br></p><p><em>Caption: Dr Haiko Schurz and Prof Marlo Möller.</em><br></p>
Researchers developing cellphone app that detects TB developing cellphone app that detects TBFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie – Sue Segar<p>​Stellenbosch University (SU) scientists are developing a mobile application (app) that will be able to distinguish a cough caused by tuberculosis (TB), from non-TB-related coughs. This innovation will be used as a screening tool to determine which patients require further testing, thereby fast tracking the TB diagnosis process.  <br></p><p>The cutting-edge project, called Cough Audio Triage for TB (CAGE-TB), is conducted by researchers in the Clinical Mycobacteriology and Epidemiology (CLIME) Group in SU's Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, along with partners in Europe and Africa.</p><p>“Mobile-based cough audio classification represents a potential holy grail for triage testing, with no specimens collected, negligible cost, and inexpensive smartphones have high-quality microphones and computational power to analyse audio on-device," says CLIME's Prof Grant Theron, the lead investigator on the project. “The CAGE-TB app represents a tremendously exciting opportunity to transform TB diagnosis at scale, ensuring more people are tested, testing itself is done more efficiently, and TB is diagnosed earlier, stopping transmission in its tracks."</p><p>TB is one of the deadliest infectious diseases globally, but many cases remain undiagnosed, particularly in low-income communities, due to outdated screening models. Conversely, many people who do not have TB are tested for it, unnecessarily using scarce resources.</p><p>CAGE-TB project coordinator, Daphne Naidoo, says the project will address a critical diagnostic gap in TB. “CAGE-TB aims to systematically identify people in need of costly, yet essential, confirmatory testing. The app will transform the process in which potential TB patients are managed upon clinic entry."</p><p><strong>Project funding and origin</strong></p><p>The CAGE-TB project recently received a funding boost of R20 million from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), which aims to reduce the burden of poverty-related diseases in developing countries through the development of medical interventions.</p><p>The research was initiated in 2021 and is based on the CAGE-TB team's proof-of-concept work which found that TB patients have a distinct sounding cough compared to healthy people, and people with other respiratory diseases.</p><p>Naidoo stresses that the app will not diagnose TB but will be used for triage. The app will screen patients to establishing who are most likely to have TB, and prioritise them for further sputum tests. “Currently there is a high level of TB passing through clinics, but these are either picked up too late or completely missed. We want to speed up TB diagnosis by creating a tool that uses the sound of a cough to classify potential TB quickly and inexpensively, providing results at the point of care. This will allow patients requiring further testing to receive adequate attention timeously."</p><p><strong>Research process</strong></p><p>The app will make use of algorithms that can distinguish between TB- and non-TB-related coughs. These algorithms are based on soundbites of coughs collected from trial participants. </p><p>“The enrolment of patients and the recordings of coughs will take place in South Africa and Uganda. Collaborators in Germany and the Netherlands will assist with ensuring the app is easy to use, and help with gathering feedback on participants' experiences of the app," she says.</p><p>According to Naidoo, the research is being conducted in two phases: discovery and validation.</p><p>“In the discovery phase, data will be collected from a cohort in Cape Town, South Africa, to refine the cough audio signal specific to TB. This involves advanced machine learning methods tailored for TB patient cough audio analysis. The validation phase will use the optimized TB audio signature from the discovery cohort to validate the technology in a broader population in Cape Town and Kampala, Uganda."</p><p>The CAGE-TB project is about two-thirds of the way to distinguishing the sound of a TB cough from other types of coughs. “Currently, we have operational systems running on large computers in the laboratory. The journey involves updating these systems with more data, which is actively being collected to enhance reliability. We will then need to port the laboratory system into a smartphone device," explains Naidoo. “We have already achieved a proof-of-concept and a prototype has been developed and successfully tested in a small-scale laboratory environment. </p><p>“In the next step, the prototype will be refined with additional data and adequate features, and iteratively tested to increase performance. A first revealing analysis will take place when the revised prototype is integrated into the mobile app, and a larger-scale field experiment will be conducted." </p><p>The research team comprises more than 30 skilled professionals from Stellenbosch University (South Africa), Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (Netherlands), Makerere University (Uganda) and University of Gottingen (Germany), with diverse expertise crucial to the project's success.<br></p><p><br></p><p><em>Photo credit: Freepik</em>​</p>
FMHS scientists shine at SAMRC 10th Scientific Merit Awards scientists shine at SAMRC 10th Scientific Merit AwardsFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie<p>​​​​Five scientists with Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) were recently honoured at the South African Medical Research Council's (SAMRC) Scientific Merit Awards, which recognises some of the best scientific research in South Africa, particularly in health sciences.<br></p><p>The FMHS' Professors Mark Tomlinson, Bob Mash, Shahida Moosa, Nelita du Plessis and Dr Yoshan Moodley received gold, silver and bronze medal awards respectively. </p><p>“Celebrating medical research excellence not only honours the achievements of researchers but also inspires progress, fosters collaboration, and enhances the overall impact of scientific advancements on global health and wellbeing," SAMRC President and CEO, Prof Glenda Gray said. </p><p>In a statement the SAMRC said that these awards aim to acknowledge outstanding contributions to health research, recognise individuals who have demonstrated exceptional scientific acumen or made innovative strides in addressing public health challenges, potentially influencing policy and enhancing the well-being of the South African population.</p><p><strong><img src="/english/faculty/healthsciences/PublishingImages/NewsCarousel/Nuus2020/Tomlinson2_SML.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" alt="" style="margin:5px;width:350px;height:250px;" />Prof Mark Tomlinson</strong>, was the recipient of a <strong>Gold medal</strong>, which are reserved for accomplished senior scientists who have made seminal contributions that have had a profound impact on the health of people, particularly those residing in developing nations. Tomlinson is co-director of the Institute for Life Course Health Research in the Department of Global Health. His research focuses on child and adolescent development, early community-based health interventions, longitudinal intervention trials, and child, adolescent, research priority setting and maternal mental health. He has led key cohort research studies tracking the longitudinal impact of early interventions in South Africa, aimed at improving maternal and child health and child development. Watch a video of Tomlinson here: <a href=""></a>.<br></p><p><strong><img src="/english/faculty/healthsciences/PublishingImages/NewsCarousel/Nuus2020/Mash2_SML.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-1" alt="" style="margin:5px;width:350px;height:250px;" />Prof Bob Mash</strong> received a <strong>Silver medal</strong>, which are presented to scientists who have made important scientific contributions within 10 years of having been awarded their PhD or Master of Medicine (MMed). Mash is the Executive Head of the Department of Family and Emergency Medicine, and his fields of research and areas of expertise are in clinical research on diabetes, educational research, and health services research in the field of family medicine and primary health care.</p><p><strong><img src="/english/faculty/healthsciences/PublishingImages/NewsCarousel/Nuus2020/Bronze.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" alt="" style="margin:5px;width:420px;height:249px;" />Associate Professor Shahida Moosa, Dr Yoshan Moodley </strong>and<strong> </strong><strong>Associate Professor Nelita Du Plessis</strong> were each awarded <strong>Bronze medals, </strong>which are presented to scientists who have recently entered the health research field, with no less than five years post PhD experience.  </p><p>Moosa heads the Division of Medical Genetics and runs the undiagnosed disease programme in sub-Saharan Africa, where she brings the latest technology to the genetics clinics to benefit patients and families living with rare diseases.</p><p>Moodley is a senior lecturer, epidemiologist, and public health researcher. His work focuses on epidemiology, gastrointestinal cancer, and surgical oncology. Over the past five years, Moodley has consolidated his achievements in Europe, producing an outstanding series of highly impactful research in his field of evolutionary genetics.</p><p>Du Plessis is an associate professor in immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. Her work is focused on innate immunity and understanding the role of regulatory myeloid cells in host susceptibility to TB disease.</p><p>Commenting on the awards, the SAMRC Board Chairperson, Prof Johnny Mahlangu, conveyed pride and admiration for the winners.</p><p>“I am filled with profound gratitude and admiration for the remarkable achievements we have witnessed at these awards. Allow me to extend my heartfelt thanks to each of you for your unwavering commitment to advancing the frontiers of science and medicine," said Mahlangu.<br></p><p>​<br></p>
Access to genetic testing brings hope for people with rare diseases in Africa to genetic testing brings hope for people with rare diseases in AfricaFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie<p>​This year, Rare Disease Day is celebrated on 29 February, the rarest day on the calendar.  <br></p><p>Rare diseases in Africa are receiving a welcome boost with the establishment of an Africa/Europe Cluster of Research Excellence called “Genomics for Health in Africa", a project that will provide medical genetic testing (used in the diagnosis of most rare diseases) to various African countries that have had little or no access to it until now.</p><p>“The project aspires to leverage the African genome and bring precision medicine to the multitude of undiagnosed people living with rare diseases in Africa," says geneticist, Prof Shahida Moosa, who heads the Rare Disease Genomics Research Group at Stellenbosch University. </p><p>The rare diseases and familial cancers arm of the Genomics for Health in Africa project will see a team of Stellenbosch University researchers led by Moosa, collaborate with research partners in Africa and Europe to not only bring medical genetic testing to a number of African countries, but will also build medical genetic and genomics capacity on the continent. This research conglomerate is made up of members of The African Research Universities Alliance and its European counterpart, The Guild, and brings together partners from across the rare diseases, cancer and infectious diseases fields – all which can benefit from increased access to genomics.</p><p>“Worldwide an estimated 400 million people are living with rare diseases, of which 100 million are in Africa. Unfortunately, access to genetic testing is not equitable. There are facilities in the United States and Europe where a baby will be diagnosed with a rare disease within hours of birth. In other parts of the world, including Africa, people live and suffer for decades before a diagnosis is made, if it's made at all," explains Moosa, who is also the head of Medical Genetics at Tygerberg Hospital and directs sub-Saharan Africa's only Undiagnosed Disease Programme (UDP).</p><p>Up to 80% of all rare diseases have a genetic basis and require genetic testing to make an accurate diagnosis. </p><p>“For the undiagnosed patients living with rare diseases in Africa, the first step is to give them access to genetic testing to get a diagnosis. Then we can start tailoring the treatment and identify the support they need locally in their hospitals, homes and communities," explains Moosa. </p><p>In South Africa an estimated one in every 15 people are affected by rare diseases, which means just over 4 million South Africans are living with a condition that affects a minority of people within the general population. There are about 7 000 known rare diseases in South Africa, with children being the worst affected. </p><p>“The long-term project for us is to bring genomics into more mainstream public health, so it not only informs the treatment and management of rare diseases, but also things like cancer, infectious diseases and pharmacogenetics, where we do genetic testing to determine which drugs will be most effective in individual patients," says Moosa.</p><p>She explains that this type of precision medicine not only benefits patients, as treatment is often more effective and less invasive, it also benefits the health system through cost saving by avoiding unnecessary testing, treatment, and hospitalisation. Undiagnosed patients with rare diseases often spend years going from doctor to doctor and test after test, in search of a diagnosis, or relief of their symptoms. This puts of strain on the health system both in terms of money and human resources. Genetic testing (whole exome sequencing), which costs in the region of R10 000, can potentially circumvents hundreds of thousands of rands in unnecessary procedures.</p><p>“Testing itself is accessible and we are working on bringing the price down so that it also becomes affordable," says Moosa. “At the moment it is mostly done on a research basis, but if we can provide proof of concept, there will be adoption of the new technology at a price point that governments can invest in, because it does save costs. </p><p>“The motto of the Undiagnosed Disease Programme and the research group is 'Until every African with a rare disease is diagnosed'. The Genomics for Health in Africa projects set the stage to achieve just that!" Moosa concludes.​<br></p><p><br></p><p><em>Photo: Members of the Rare Disease Genomics Research Group at an event to raise awareness of Rare Diseases.</em><br><br></p>
Africa-Europe CoRE-GHA Consortium experts convene at SU to advance genomic research CoRE-GHA Consortium experts convene at SU to advance genomic researchCERI Media and Communication <p>​The Cluster of Research Excellence in Genomics for Health in Africa (CoRE-GHA) consortium recently gathered at Stellenbosch University's (SU) Tygerberg campus for its first in-person meeting on January 16 and 17, 2024. This marked a significant step forward in fostering collaborative genomic research across continents, setting the stage for dynamic collaboration and promising advancements in health research.<br></p><p>Initiated by The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) and The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities (The Guild), the Africa-Europe CoRE project officially launched on June 19, 2023.  The  CoRE Genomics for Health in Africa  is co-led by Prof Tulio de Oliveira, Director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) and Prof Shahida Moosa, Head of Medical Genetics at Tygerberg Hospital and SU, together with Prof Carmen Faso and Prof Volker Thiel from the University of Bern in Switzerland, and Prof Olaf Riess and Dr Tobias Haack from the University of Tübingen in Germany.<br></p><p>De Oliveira emphasized the importance of the meeting, stating: "it is important to meet and strategize on how we will be using genomics to revolutionize public health in Africa and Europe. Together, we can benefit from the large term experience of Africa dealing with infectious diseases and Europe with advancing personalized medicine".<br></p><p>The recent meeting focused on critical aspects of consortium development, with the establishment of working groups tasked with fundraising, matchmaking, website content creation, and the development of teaching materials. CoRE-GHA's specific areas of emphasis include rare diseases, cancers, pandemic preparedness, and infectious diseases. This strategic approach sets the stage for dynamic collaboration and promising advancements in genomic research for the benefit of public health in both Africa and Europe.</p><p>Faso, co-chair of the Multidisciplinary Center for Infectious Diseases at University of Berm, highlighted the collaboration's mutual benefits. "This collaboration is for the benefit of both people in Europe and in Africa. These two days are fundamental in ensuring a sustainable consortium and innovative ideas."<br></p><p>Riess, who heads the largest human genomics facility at Tübingen University in Germany, stressed the significance of joining forces with Africa. "It is important for us to join forces with Africa and ensure the sustainability of this collaboration. By doing so, we are increasing capacity and expanding on our rare diseases knowledge base for both Europe and Africa."</p><p>Moosa expressed excitement about advancing genomics for health, stating: "We are very excited and geared up to advance genomics for health. This cluster focuses specifically on Rare Disease and Cancer genomics, and finding genome-based solutions for Precision Medicine. This is the start of a promising journey unlocking the African genome to optimize health for ALL on the continent."</p><p>This was the first time this meeting was held at SU, and it was attended by senior scientific leaders from the Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, and Kenyan Universities. Participants in this inaugural meeting included representatives from Rhodes University, University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Nairobi, SU, University of Glasgow, the University of Bern, and the University of Tübingen. Other universities involved in this consortium include University of Ghana, University of Rwanda and University of Groningen. This meeting signifies a crucial step forward in utilizing genomics to revolutionize public health in Africa and Europe, emphasizing a promising journey towards a healthier future for all.​</p>
Single mother’s grit takes her from rural village to PhD in Molecular Biology mother’s grit takes her from rural village to PhD in Molecular BiologyCorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>​​Raised in the small village of Nemangwe in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe, 40-year-old Dr Rachiel Gumbo was always destined for bigger things. She has literally and figuratively come a long way since she finished high school. Showing grit and determination, Gumbo scaled the heights of academic success when she obtained her doctorate in Molecular Biology on Tuesday 12 December 2023 at Stellenbosch University (SU)'s December graduation. <br></p><p>But on her way to a PhD, she had to overcome a few challenges. </p><p>The oldest of three siblings, Gumbo obtained a BSc Honours Degree in Biological Sciences from Midlands State University in Zimbabwe in 2005 but could not continue with her studies due to a lack of grants and bursaries. She ended up working as a laboratory assistant at Hwange Colliery Hospital Laboratory and teaching mathematics, physical science and biology to high school learners. </p><p>Although she had to take this detour, Gumbo says she is grateful for having had the opportunity to teach. “Teaching was an incredibly worthwhile experience as it boosted my confidence, taught me to be patient with pupils, creative and above all, it gave me a good sense of humour."</p><p><strong>Changing fortunes</strong></p><p>In 2007, the single mother of two boys moved to South Africa to further her studies, but funding was hard to come by as a non-citizen. </p><p>To make ends meet, Gumbo offered private after-school lessons to learners and also did part-time tutoring with Education Matters in Cape Town before taking a job as a secretary at Forest Creations (Pty) Ltd, a woodwork company in the City. Her fortunes changed, however, in 2018 when she responded to a posting by Prof Michele Miller from SU's Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics for a new student to join the Animal TB Research Group. Miller would later become her supervisor along with Dr Tanya Kerr from the same division. “When I joined the group in 2019, my dream of continuing my studies became a reality," says Gumbo.</p><p>After obtaining her BSc Honours in Molecular Biology from SU in 2019, Gumbo enrolled for a MSc in the same field. Such was the quality of her research, that the Master's was upgraded to a PhD. This is a remarkable and rare achievement in academia. While busy with her doctorate, Gumbo published seven articles in international academic journals and received a prestigious scholarship from the Germany Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). She says her biggest challenge as an older international student studying at a South African University was scholarship eligibility, which threatened to derail her studies. </p><p><strong>PhD research</strong></p><p>Gumbo's PhD focused on developing immunological tests for improving the detection of animal tuberculosis (TB) in lions, leopards and cheetahs in South Africa. Animal TB is a serious chronic infectious disease caused by infection with <em>Mycobacterium bovis</em> (<em>M. bovis</em>) in cattle and other domesticated animals, as well as many wildlife species, with potential transmission to humans. </p><p>According to Gumbo, several cheetahs, lions and leopards have died because of animal TB. Since <em>M. bovis</em> can be introduced into uninfected populations, and species-specific immunological tests for diagnosis of animal TB are limited, she developed a diagnostic test that can distinguish between <em>M. bovis</em>-infected and uninfected lions, leopards and cheetahs using commercially available kits.</p><p>“The development and incorporation of species-specific diagnostic tests for routine screening of lions, leopards and cheetahs are essential for early detection of TB in wildlife to allow prompt responses from veterinarians, researchers, and managers to prevent the spread of infection and enhance disease control," says Gumbo. </p><p>“Research focussing on animal TB has a broad impact on human health, food security and the livelihoods of rural African communities who rely on ecotourism as their primary source of income.  A better understanding of animal TB will help to protect Africa's vulnerable wildlife species and unique biodiversity."</p><p><strong>Faith</strong></p><p>Looking back on her journey, Gumbo says she was driven by the desire to improve the quality of her life and that of her children. “When things got tough, I kept reminding myself that I am doing this for my kids."</p><p>As a person of faith, Gumbo believes in the power of divine intervention. “I relied mainly on my faith as I juggled raising my two boys and pursuing my studies. I believe that God himself placed my supervisors Prof Michele Miller and Dr Tanya Kerr on my path to support me professionally and personally and to help me reach the pinnacle of academic success."</p><p>Gumbo's supervisors speak glowingly about her.</p><p>“Rachiel was a model student and demonstrated the passion and commitment to become a scientist. Her positive attitude and warm personality have made her a 'favourite' in our division. We are incredibly proud of her accomplishments and look forward to having her join us as a post-doctoral fellow in 2024."</p><p>Having had to overcome a few obstacles along the way, Gumbo has a message for women who may experience similar difficulties. “Firstly, don't let your background define you, and do not allow anybody to tell you that you can't do it. Although tears may be shed along the way, there is always light at the end of the tunnel."</p><p>When she not doing research, Gumbo loves to bake and try out new food recipes. “My older son loves food, so I attempt to cook different meals that I have not tried before. But sometimes I do flop". In addition to baking and cooking, she enjoys playing chess and watching WWE wrestling with her sons. Gumbo also loves athletics and used to be a discus thrower.</p><ul><li><strong>Photo</strong>: Dr Rachiel Gumbo at the graduation. <strong>Photographer</strong>: Stefan Els</li></ul><p> </p><p>​<br></p>
PhD candidate awarded coveted Women in Science prize candidate awarded coveted Women in Science prizeFMHS Marketing & Communications<p>​<br><br></p><p>Esther Uwimaana is one of 30 women scientists on the continent being recognised for their work by the 14<sup>th</sup> L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Young Talents Sub-Saharan Africa Awards.</p><p>Uwimaan, who hails from Uganda, is working towards her PhD in Molecular Biology at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), where she is conducting research on potential vaccines for tuberculosis.</p><p>Each year, the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Young Talents Sub-Saharan Africa Awards recognise and support African women scientists for the excellence of their research. The 30 winners—of which 25 are PhD candidates and five postdoctoral researchers—have been selected among 632 applicants.</p><p>“As bearers of hope and innovative solutions for the African continent, the 30 scientists of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2023 Young Talents Sub-Saharan Africa Awards are investing in multiple fields of research. Using unprecedented approaches, they tackle major challenges to improve the quality of life in Africa and worldwide," reads a statement issued by the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science.</p><p>“The 30 young talents—biochemists, epidemiologists, ecologists, artificial intelligence experts and public health specialists—from 18 different African countries are all committed to finding long-term solutions to the continent's diverse challenges. They are all a real source of inspiration for future generations."</p><p>Explaining her research, Uwimaana, says she is examining the potential of <em>Mycobacterium tuberculosis</em> antigens as vaccines against tuberculosis. “This involves priming human immune cells with mycobacterial proteins and peptides, followed by challenging the human cells with bacteria and observing whether these cells kill the bacteria," she explains. “My findings could be used to develop effective vaccines to keep people safe from tuberculosis and contribute to the fight against infectious diseases."</p><p>As for her chosen career path in science, Uwimaana says she feels privileged to be able to inspire girls in her village, and showing them that a career in science is possible. “The increase in opportunities for women is gradually breaking societal norms, however we still need to convince African families of the value of girls' education, create more role models and enable women scientists to work free of inequality and discrimination."</p><p>The L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Young Talents Sub-Saharan Africa Awards enable its laureates to benefit from financial support to help them conduct their research projects—grants of €10 000 (nearly R200 000) for PhD candidates and €15 000 (nearly R300 000) for postdoctoral researchers. The 2023 Young Talents' cohort will join a community of more than 200 African researchers who have been supported an honoured since the creation of this regional programme in 2010.</p><p>“Enabling women scientists to emerge in the public arena and be recognised for the quality of their work requires urgent action. It's everyone's responsibility—institutions, companies and civil society. Neither Africa nor the world can successfully respond to the environmental, societal, health crises of our time by depriving itself of half of the humanity," says Alexandra Palt, CEO of the Fondation L'Oréal.</p><p><br></p><p>Caption: Esther Uwimaana.​</p>
2023 Research and Innovation Excellence Awards – a celebration of research with impact at SU Research and Innovation Excellence Awards – a celebration of research with impact at SUDivision for Research Development | Afdeling Navorsingsontwikkeling <p>​<span style="text-align:justify;">​​Stellenbosch University (SU)'s Research and Innovation Excellence Award ceremony was held at STIAS on Monday 30 October 2023. The awards recognised researchers, postdoctoral research fellows and postgraduate students who contributed in one of the award categories: postgraduate students; early career researchers; established researchers; women in research; awards for newly A-rated researchers; postgraduate supervision; technology transfer/innovation; research outputs; The Conversation Africa awards for science communication; postdoctoral research fellows; a DVC Interdisciplinary/Group award; as well as a Rector and Vice-Chancellor'​​​​s Research for Impact Award.</span></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Research-related activities and outputs make a critical contribution to expanding SU's national and international reputation as an excellent research-intensive university that advances knowledge in service of society.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">More importantly is the fact that new knowledge generated at SU in this manner is transferred to a broader national and global audience, thus enhancing the application of research results and the establishment of high-level human capacity. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The awards therefore give recognition to individuals for their exceptional and excellent contribution towards SU`s research enterprise. They have been engaged in high qualify research, knowledge transfer, or research-related activities over a sustained period of time and therefore deserve acknowledgement for the impact of their work.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">In her opening address, Prof Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies at SU, highlighted the fact that SU relies on the research and innovation expertise of its people, excellent infrastructure and an impeccable reputation to deliver high quality training, produce new knowledge and conduct research needed to solve some of the pressing problems in our environment and society. Impactful research is one of the main drivers that measures the value add of SU to knowledge generation and high-end skills training. “We therefore celebrate this group of awardees, but also everyone who has been nominated in the various categories. We also want to thank the Faculties, Departments, Schools, Research Centers and Institutes for creating enabling spaces for these researchers and students to thrive. This year we introduced a nomination process and a few more categories to look at the broader impact of the research beyond focusing only on the number of publications but also the impact of the research outcomes", she added. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof Wim De Villiers, Rector, and Vice-Chancellor, congratulated the awardees who contribute to SU's strategic vision of becoming Africa's leading research-intensive institution: “One of SU's core strategic themes is Research for Impact. And the impact our researchers are making - on Stellenbosch University's reputation and influence as a world-class institution that produces excellent research, and within their fields of expertise in South Africa, Africa and beyond – that's a legacy to be proud of."</p><p>You can find the awards ceremony booklet with the names of all the nominees in the different categories here: <a href=""></a></p><table cellspacing="0" class="ms-rteTable-default" style="width:100%;"><tbody><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2" style="width:50%;"><strong>Research and Innovation Excellence Awards 2023 awardees: </strong> ​​<br><br></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">POSTGRADUATE STUDENT CATEGORY</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Megan Bruwer</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Civil Engineering </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Ms Kimberly Coetzer</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Biomedical Sciences</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Ms Elizaveta Koroleva</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Microbiology </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Ms Carmen-Marie Payne</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Medical Physiology </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Samantha Pillay</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Biomedical Sciences</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Tulimo Uushona</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Animal Sciences</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong>​<span style="color:#60223b;">EARLY CAREER RESEARCHER CATEGORY</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Bronwyn Coetzee</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Psychology </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Wynand Goosen</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Biomedical Sciences</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Karel Kruger</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Mechanical & Mechatronic Engineering </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Douglas Parry</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Information Science</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Sanjeev Rambharose</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Physiological Sciences </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Rizwana Roomaney</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Psychology </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Delano van der Linde</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Public Law </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​ESTABLISHED RESEARCHER CATEGORY </span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Karen Esler</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Conservation Ecology and Entomology </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Andries Engelbrecht</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Industrial Engineering</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Ashraf Kagee</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Psychology </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Michele Miller</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Biomedical Sciences</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Grant Theron</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Biomedical Sciences</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​WOMEN IN RESEARCH CATEGORY - 5 awards</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Annie Bekker</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Oonsie Biggs</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Centre for Sustainability Transitions</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Zsa-Zsa Boggenpoel</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Private law </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Catherine Cluver</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Obstetrics and Gynaecology</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Marlo Möller</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Molecular Biology and Human Genetics</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​Awards for newly A-rated Researchers</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Guy Midgley </td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Director: School for Climate Studies</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Gerhard Walzl </td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Molecular Biology and Human Genetics</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​Postgraduate Supervision Awards</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Dirk de Villiers</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Electrical and Electronic Engineering</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Sara Grobbelaar</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Industrial Engineering</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Doreen Kaura</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Nursing and Midwifery</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Cletos Mapiye</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Animal Sciences</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Robbie Pott</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Chemical Engineering</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Jan van Vuuren</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Industrial Engineering</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​Technology Transfer/Innovation Awards</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Resia Pretorius</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Physiological Sciences</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Jason Samuels</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Industrial Engineering</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​DVC Top Research Output Award</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Oluwole Makinde</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Mathematics</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Soraya Seedat</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Psychiatry</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Robin Warren</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Molecular Biology and Human Genetics</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Bernard Wessels</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Private Law</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Evert Kleynhans</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Military History</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​</span><span style="color:#60223b;">​</span><span style="color:#60223b;">The Conversation Africa Awards</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Charles MacRobert</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Civil Engineering</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Sara Andreotti</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Botany and Zoology</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Amanda Gouws</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Political Science</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Mr Wandile Sihlobo</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Agricultural Economics</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​CERTIFICATES OF RECOGNITION</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;">  </span></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Lungi Nkonki - Future Professors Programme</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Health Systems and Public Health</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Margreth Tadie - Future Professors Programme</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Chemical Engineering</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Tongai Gibson Maponga - Future Professors Programme</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Medical Virology</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Uhuru Portia Phalafula - Future Professors Programme</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">English</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Nox Makunga - Future Professors Programme</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Botany and Zoology</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Gibson Ncube - Future Professors Programme</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Modern Foreign Languages</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Tawanda Zininga - Future Professors Programme</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Biochemistry</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Retief Muller  - for PhDs delivered</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Systematic Theology and Ecclessiology</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Johann Cilliers - for PhDs delivered</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Practical Theology and Missiology</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Maureen Robinson - for PhDs delivered</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Curriculum Studies</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Marius Ungerer - for research outputs</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">USB</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Florian Krobb - for research outputs</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Modern Foreign Languages</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Christof Sauer - for research outputs</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Practical Theology and Missiology</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr John Harper - for research outputs</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Old and New Testament</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​Postdoctoral Awards</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Chioma Ohajunwa - Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Year Award</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Africa Centre for HIV/Aids Management</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Grant Theron - Outstanding Postdoctoral Mentor Award</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Biomedical Sciences</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Natalia Florez Quiroz - Top Postdoctoral Research Fellow Award</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Civil Engineering</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Eirik Wik - Top Postdoctoral Research Fellow Award</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Hayley Jackson - Top Postdoctoral Research Fellow Award</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Biochemistry</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Suventha Moodley - Top Postdoctoral Research Fellow Award</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Biochemistry</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Dr Lindani Moyo - Top Postdoctoral Research Fellow Award</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Plant Pathology</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​DVC INTERDISCIPLINARY/GROUP AWARD</span></strong><span style="color:#60223b;"> </span><strong style="color:#60223b;"> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI)</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">School for Data Science and Computational Thinking </td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Institute for Life Course Health Research (ILCHR)</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Global Health</td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableEvenRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default" colspan="2"><strong style="color:#60223b;"><span style="color:#60223b;">​</span><span style="color:#60223b;">​</span><span style="color:#60223b;">RECTOR AND VICE-CHANCELLOR`S RESEARCH FOR IMPACT AWARD</span></strong> <strong> </strong></td></tr><tr class="ms-rteTableOddRow-default"><td class="ms-rteTableEvenCol-default">Prof Tulio De Oliveira</td><td class="ms-rteTableOddCol-default">Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI)</td></tr></tbody></table><p> <br></p>
SU study aims to shorten diagnosis for drug-resistant TB study aims to shorten diagnosis for drug-resistant TBCorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>​​Drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) is a global health threat due to high mortality, cost of treatment and risk of transmission. In 2021, there were an estimated 450 000 cases of DR-TB worldwide and 191 000 deaths. South Africa has one of the highest numbers of drug-resistant patients globally, but shockingly only 50% of these patients are started on treatment.<br></p><p>“Drug-resistant TB threatens to derail the World Health Organisation's (WHO) END-TB strategy that aims to eradicate the disease globally by 2035. We therefore need new and improved methods for diagnosing DR-TB in the shortest possible time to curb transmission, improve treatment and save lives," says Dr Brigitta Derendinger from the Clinical Mycobacteriology and Epidemiology (CLIME) Group in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University's (SU's) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. </p><p>Derendinger, who recently obtained her doctorate at SU, examined ways in which existing tests to diagnose DR-TB could be improved. She also characterised the programmatic emergence (non-clinical trial patients) of bedaquiline resistance – the first new TB drug in almost 40 years –​ in high-risk patients. Bedaquiline is part of injectable-free treatment regimens for drug-resistant TB.<br></p><p>Derendinger points out that Xpert MTB and RIF Ultra are some of the most widely used tests for the diagnosis of TB and drug resistance, but a second sputum is still needed to verify resistance to rifampicin, which is frequently prescribed to treat TB, and to diagnose second-line resistance. In addition, two WHO-endorsed molecular tests (MTBDRplus and MTBDRsl) are done routinely to confirm a drug-resistant diagnosis and to further diagnose resistance to other drugs. <br></p><p>“Since the roll-out of Xpert, Ultra and MTBDR<em>plus</em> in South Africa, the time from the initial diagnosis of multi-drug-resistant TB to when the patient starts to receive treatment has shortened, but this process is still long.</p><p>​“Furthermore, many countries with a high TB burden lack the biosafety and infrastructure for the extraction of DNA and additional molecular testing. There is, therefore, an urgent need to reduce these diagnostic delays and develop or improve rapid molecular methods to help minimise the reliance on the collection of a second sputum sample."<br></p><p>To help address these shortcomings, Derendinger extracted DNA of <em>Mycobacterium tuberculosis</em> (the bacterium that causes TB) from used Xpert cartridges (cartridge extract – CE) that would otherwise be discarded by laboratories. She showed this by doing first (MTBDR<em>plus</em>)- and second-line (MTBDR<em>sl</em>)<em> </em>TB drug testing from the CE collected from this one cartridge, thus allowing a quicker diagnosis of DR-TB and negating the need to collect a second specimen.</p><p> “We<strong>*</strong> have identified ways to reduce the need for collection of a second sputum sample, thereby potentially reducing the time it takes to make a diagnosis from weeks to a few days. A quicker diagnosis will mean that patients can be placed on treatment sooner.</p><p>“We have identified thresholds to implement to ensure that no test needs to be wasted on CE likely to give an invalid result. This has profound implications, especially in countries like South Africa where patients often do not return to give a second sputum or simply cannot produce one to confirm the diagnosis of drug-resistant TB.<br></p><p>“We also found that by correcting a parameter used in the MTBDR<em>plus</em> and MTBDR<em>sl</em> tests, we can diagnose more patients with DR-TB and place them on effective treatment," adds Derendinger.</p><p>Regarding bedaquiline, she says it is being scaled up rapidly but largely in the absence of TB drug testing.<br></p><p>“The WHO recommends TB drug testing to be done on all patients receiving bedaquiline and to monitor their treatment, but this is not done regularly in South Africa and only a few centralised laboratories have the capacity to do so which causes diagnostic delays.<br></p><p>“Clinical bedaquiline resistance is emerging but the data is scarce, especially in settings where patients are more likely to experience delays and drug shortages, receive less support, and are monitored even less than patients on clinical trials. <br></p><p>“Consequently, these patients can be non-adherent and failing treatment regimens are less likely to be detected, therefore resistance is more likely to be acquired and later transmitted in these settings."<br></p><p>Derendinger emphasises the need to optimise established molecular drug-resistant TB tests and development of new drug-resistant TB tests to monitor resistance to new drugs like bedaquiline to curb the delayed diagnosis and ongoing transmission.<br></p><p>She says the findings of her study have informed WHO course training material and been incorporated into global laboratory performance and quality assessments.<br></p><p><em>*</em><em>Derendinger also acknowledges the contribution that Dr Rouxjeane Venter</em> <em>from the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at SU made to her research.</em></p><ul><li><strong>​Photo by Umanoide on </strong><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Unsplash</strong></a><br></li></ul><p>​<br></p>