TB Host genetics
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

Division of Molecular Biology & Human Genetics

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Tuberculosis Host Genetics​ Members

Principal Investigator​s

Eileen.jpgProf emerita 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 joint senior author on several publications resulting from this work. She is currently the head of the group working on host susceptibility to TB, consisting of approximately 20 people from BSc Hons students to senior researchers. Email: egvh@sun.ac.za 


Crain Kinnear image.jpgProf 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 signalling 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. Email: gkin@sun.ac.za

 

Marlo.jpg​Prof 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. Email: marlom@sun.ac.za

 

Desiree Petersen image.jpgDr Desiree Petersen obtained a PhD degree in Health Sciences from Stellenbosch University in 2006. She also holds a MSc degree and BSc (Hons) degree in Medical Sciences along with a BSc degree in Biological Sciences, all awarded by Stellenbosch University. Currently, she is a Specialist Scientist at the SAMRC's Centre for Tuberculosis (TB) Research, and she has a joint appointment as a Senior Researcher within the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University. Prior to returning to South Africa in 2017, she spent more than 10 years abroad working at internationally recognised research institutes, including the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego, U.S.A. as well as the Children's Cancer Institute Australia and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. Her research to date has mainly involved investigating genomic diversity amongst human populations to further establish the genetic basis of complex diseases, including cancer and infectious diseases. Her current research is focused on Population Genetics and Complex Diseases, including TB and COVID-19. Email: dp3@sun.ac.za

 In my spare time …

“I enjoy reading, watching movies, travelling, and exploring local sites."


Scientists


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. Email: cjw1@sun.ac.za


Brigitte.jpgDr Brigitte Glanzmann is currently a post-doctoral fellow working on the discovery of novel disease causing variants in patients with primary immunodeficiency diseases. Her project focuses on the whole exome sequencing of young children as well as individuals who have multiple bacterial infections such as TB. Email: blindycycle@sun.ac.za


 


Caitlin.jpg
Dr Caitlin Uren completed her BSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Cape Town in 2013 and her PhD at Stellenbosch University in 2017. She is currently investigating fine-scale human population structure in southern Africa as well as the impact this structure has on susceptibility to infectious diseases.​ Email: caitlinu@sun.ac.za


 



Dr Haiko Schurz's higher education journey began in 2007 when he enrolled in a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mechatronics at Stellenbosch University. Following completion of his engineering degree he decided to change direction and subsequently did a second undergraduate degree in Molecular biology and Biotechnology, at the same institution. In 2014 he started his Honours degree in Human Genetics at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Stellenbosch University. This is where he discovered his passion for bioinformatics and bio-statistics which led to his proposal for a Master's degree in Human genetics, which was upgraded to a PhD degree in 2016. Then in 2018 he obtained his PhD in Human genetics and currently holds a Claude Leon Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue his research until the end of 2020. Haiko's work investigates the host (human) genetic susceptibility to tuberculosis, with a specific focus on investigating the cause for the extreme male bias observed in incidence rates, by incorporating the X chromosome, sex-stratified association testing and sex-biased population genetics into his analysis of tuberculosis susceptibility. Email: haiko@sun.ac.za


Laboratory Staff

Sihaam Boolay Image.jpgDr Sihaam Boolay (Lab Manager and Liason Officer) holds a PhD from UCT in Developmental Neurobiology and has years of experience of work in Human Genetic research, TB, Forensic Toxicology, 3D dysmorphology & automotive electroplating. Her current responsibilities include a variety of tasks and responsibilities which can be labelled with the umbrella term 'Lab Manager'. She is also responsible for all the health & safety within the lab. Email: sihaam@sun.ac.za 


In my spare time…

“I enjoy nature and all outdoor activities including camping, hiking and walking"  


Annecke image.jpgAnnecke Vermeulen obtained her BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at Stellenbosch University in 2019 and joined the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics in 2020 to complete her BSc Honours. Her project looked at the haemoglobin variants present in Angora goats with swelling disease. After completing her Hons, she joined our group as a research assistant in 2021 and is responsible for a wide range of tasks including assisting with all research conducted by the group as well as administrative duties. She is also the division's representative on the Dean Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability. Email: vermeulena@sun.ac.za

 In my spare time …

“I spend too much time at the gym and I enjoy hiking, building puzzles and chasing sunsets"


Research Medical ​Officer


Eloise Kroon Image.jpgDr Elouise Kroon obtained her MBChB degree at Stellenbosch University in 2012. She joined the TB Host Genetics group in 2016 where she is involved in the ResisTB project as the study clinician. The ResisTB project aims to identify the underlying genetic and immunological mechanisms that protect persons who are living with HIV from infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and developing tuberculosis (TB). This unique group of persons have been identified and described as HITTIN or highly tuberculosis-exposed and HIV-1-infected but persistently TB, Tuberculin 

image002.jpgand IGRA negative. In 2021 she completed her PhD entitled 'Neutrophils as effector cells in resistance to infection by Mycobacterium tuberculosis in HIV- infected persons.' Neutrophils are important immune cells and are some of the first cells to make contact with the Mtb bacillus, the causative bacterium for TB, once it is inhaled. As part of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP)-funded NeutroTB study, we are investigating the differential transcriptional differences in neutrophils from individuals defi​ned as HITTIN in the ResisTB study, compared to individuals who become infected with Mtb. This project (TMA2018CDF-2353) is part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union. She is the holder of two prestigious awards, the EDCTP Career Development Fellowship and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Clinician Researcher M.D PhD Scholarships Programme in Clinical /Health Research. This project is part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union. Email: elouise_k@sun.ac.za

 In my spare time … 

“I am passionate about health and wellness and enjoy drawing, painting and running."


Post-doctoral Fellows


Okugbeni-Naomi image.jpegDr Naomi Okugbeni attained her BSc in Biomedicine at Midrand Graduate Institute (now Eduvos) in 2015. She then moved to Stellenbosch University and obtained her BSc Honours in Human Genetics in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics. Her Honours' project was focused on the ubiquitination of phagosomal membrane proteins in response to Mycobacterium smegmatis infection. She registered for her MSc in 2017 which was subsequently upgraded to a PhD. Her PhD dissertation characterized the progression of autophagy in Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Her current research focus is on understanding the mechanisms of Autophagy progression and evasion in Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection using Microscopy and Genomic tools. Email: naomio@sun.ac.za

In my spare time … 

“I enjoy sound/music production, most of my spare time is spent learning and volunteering in those areas. I also enjoy sewing and taking road trips."


Tina Meirng image.pngDr Tina Meiring completed her BSc Human Life Sciences at Stellenbosch University majoring in genetics and physiology. She then completed her BSc (hons) Genetics in 2017 with a project focussed on antipsychotic treatment response in a schizophrenic cohort from South Africa). In 2019 her MSc was upgraded to a PhD with a project titled 'Investigating genome variation within a South African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) population: towards understanding their susceptibility to Mycobacterium bovis infection' and she graduated with a PhD Molecular Biology in 2021.

 Currently she is aiming to investigate the genomic diversity of the African wild dogs across their range within Zimbabwe and South Africa and explore the possibility of using SNPs (genome-wide markers) for individual ID and relatedness estimates from non-invasively collected fecal samples.

She is also part of two research projects in the Animal TB research group that is using whole genome sequencing (WGS) to evaluate the epidemiology of Mycobacterium bovis isolates in multi-host ecosystems across South Africa; and using genomic tools for improved surveillance of Mycobacteria spp. at the human-livestock-wildlife-environment interface, South Africa. Email: cmeiring@sun.ac.za

 In my spare time …

“I enjoy exercise, reading, spending time with family and being outdoors"



PhD S​tudents​

Keren de Buys image.jpgKeren de Buys completed her BSc Molecular Biology and Biotechnology majoring in Microbiology and Biochemistry in 2015. In 2016 she completed her BSc Hons Molecular Biology with a project titled 'Identification of mycobacterial protein-protein interactors'. She then proceeded to complete her MSc in Human Genetics with her project focussing on the Identification of novel markers of cardiometabolic risk in Black South Africans. Keren is currently busy with her PhD focussed on the Identification of the mycobacterial proteins targeted by the human immune system during to clear infection. Email: kdebuys@sun.ac.za

 

In my spare time...

“I enjoy road trips, ice cream and hot chocolate dates, going to the beach, reading"


Yolandi Swart image.JPGYolandi Swart obtained her BSc degree in Human Life Sciences at Stellenbosch University in 2016, where she also completed her BSc Honours in Genetics in 2017. Her honours project investigated the SRNA responses and differential gene expression of grapefruit to the co-infection of CTV and viroid's. She started her MSc in Human Genetics at Tygerberg in 2018 where she performed admixture mapping on five-way admixed populations from South Africa to investigate potential genetic variants that are associated with TB susceptibility. This involved the ancestry inference and including this information in genomic analysis. Currently she is completing her PhD which involves admixture mapping of TB susceptibility and the contribution of type 2 diabetes in a South African population. She hopes to identify genetic variants for clinical follow up experiments in TB, type 2 diabetes and TB-type 2 diabetes comorbid individuals. Email: yolandi01@sun.ac.za

 In my spare time …

“I do triathlons, hiking and love to braai" 


Carene Ndong Sima image.JPGCarene Ndong-Sima graduated with a BSc in Biomedical sciences in 2018 from Minnesota State University. Thereafter, she joined our group in 2020 to complete an MSc in Human Genetics where her research focused on developing and validating a polygenic risk score (PRS) model for prediction of tuberculosis susceptibility in a South African population. She is currently busy with her PhD in Human genetics where her project focusses on a population-based study of pharmacogenetics and pharmacokinetics in Southern African patients with tuberculosis.  Her role will consist of data manipulation and quality control which will flow into pharmacogenetic data analysis. She will also oversee liaising with external and internal collaborators and she has additionally volunteered to lend a hand to the Host Genetics group for some administrative activities such as, but not limited to, the monthly update of students' information onto the data capturing interface RedCap and scheduling of group meetings. As she would like to acquire some technical (wet lab) skills, she will also be helping with DNA extractions. Email: csima@sun.ac.za

 In my spare time…

“I enjoy spending time with my friends, reading true crimes novels, playing chess, and last but not least I have a particular affinity for goofing around."


Denise Scholtz image.JPGDenise Scholtz completed her undergraduate degree of BSc Life Sciences (Genetics & Physiology) in 2018 at Stellenbosch University, followed by BSc Hons and MSc in Human Genetics in 2019 and 2022 respectively. Her previous research topic focused on investigating the influence of diabetic medication in Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected macrophages. Her current research is investigating transcriptional profiles of patients with Inborn Errors of Immunity in TB endemic South Africa. Denise also keeps herself involved in the group by being a Research assistant on the COVID-19 study and a health & safety representative. Email: nisischoltz@sun.ac.za​


 In my spare time … 

“I enjoy spending time with friends and family, being outdoors, reading and running."


Carola image.jpgCarola Oelofse obtained her BSc , BSc Hons Genetics and MSc Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University where her MSc focused on Pharmacogenetics of Efavirenz. Currently she is completing her PhD titled "The Pharmacogenomic Landscape of Africa". Email: carola@sun.ac.za

 In my spare time … 

“I enjoy running and painting"



MSc Student​s

Chrystal Steyl image.jpgChrystal Steyl completed her BSc (Human Life Science) degree at Stellenbosch University in 2019, majoring in Genetics and Physiology. She then joined the TB Host Genetics group to complete her Hons degree in 2020 focussed on analysing the exome sequencing data of adult patients who experienced recurrent tuberculosis episodes. The aim was to identify whether this extreme phenotype is due to host genetic variants causing these patients to be more susceptible to TB. 

 For her MSc she joined the COVID-19 Host Genetics group where her current project involves identifying host genetic variants that might contribute to the susceptibility to COVID-19 disease. She is specifically interested in 2 cohorts; relatively young and healthy adults who developed severe COVID-19 disease and children who developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS-C is a new, but rare and severe clinical syndrome in children related to SARS-CoV-2 infection and comprises of multiorgan dysfunction and systemic inflammation. This is a strange phenotype as children infected with the virus are typically asymptomatic. ​Email: csteyl@sun.ac.za

In my spare time … 

“I enjoy spending time with family or just watching a good movie to relax."


Dayna Smith image.jpgDayna Smith graduated from Wits University with a Bachelor of Health Sciences and completed an Honours in Human Genetics at Wits in 2021 where she focussed on investigating the cause of false positive results observed in NGS targeted panel data using Agilent SureCall software. Her current masters project is data harmonization across existing TB case-control data, which serves as an opportunity to uncover novel TB host genetic associations. Email: dayna@sun.ac.za

 In my spare time…

“I enjoy doing yoga, reading, and going for hikes." 


Anwani Siwada image.jpgAnwani Siwada holds a BSc degree in Molecular Biology where she double majored in Genetics and Applied Bioinformatics as well as a BHSc Honours degree in Human Genetics, both from the University of Witwatersrand. For her honours project, she investigated SNP Haplotypes that tag copy number variations in ADME genes in the Sub-Saharan African Population. Her MSc project will be investigating the relationship between KhoeSan ancestry and TB drug metabolism. Email: anwanies@sun.ac.za

In my spare time …

“I like going out with family and friends. I also enjoy reading"


Odile Ortell image.jpgOdile Oretell obtained a BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (2020), and a BScHons in Molecular Biology (2021) from Stellenbosch University. Her honours research aimed to explore and identify potential novel TB markers from human sputum samples using bioinformatics techniques. Her current research focus explores the role of sex-biased gene expression in TB susceptibility. Email: odileortell@sun.ac.za

 In my spare time…

“I enjoy spending time with my loved ones, volunteering at the Animal Welfare Shelter in Stellenbosch, wine tasting and going to the gym."