Division for Research Development
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

SA Research Chair in Animal Tuberculosis (TB)

Prof Michele Miller, whose work forms part of TB-related research in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, holds the South African Research Chair in Animal Tuberculosis. The research programme aims to increase knowledge and develop tools to understand comparative disease pathogenesis and host immune responses, identify novel biomarkers for detection of infection and disease to improve diagnostic techniques, and explore the diversity, epidemiology, and the implications of TB in ecosystems and at animal-human interfaces. The research group has been investigating TB in a variety of wildlife species, and have developed tools for detecting infected lions, African wild dogs, rhinoceros, leopards, warthogs, cheetahs, and elephants. New knowledge has been generated by applying these tools to understand how TB is spread between species and the role of the environment in transmission. In addition, collaborations with human TB researchers have allowed the group to explore zoonotic TB (caused by animal to human spread of Mycobacterium bovis) as well as the impact of non-tuberculous mycobacteria on human and animal health. A joint collaboration between Stellenbosch TB researchers, and those at the University of the Witwatersrand and Institut Pasteur de Madagascar is focused on creating a database of animal and human mycobacterial sequences that will provide a foundation for exploring the epidemiology and drug resistance of TB in South Africa and Madagascar. The research has resulted in the discovery of the first cases of TB in elephants and rhinoceros in Kruger National Park. Using diagnostic tools validated for rhinoceros, an epidemiological study was performed to estimate the prevalence and identify risk factors for infection. This work was published in the highly esteemed international journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2022.

Importantly, diagnostic test development can lead to more rapid accurate methods for detecting infection which could prevent further spread to new populations. The research program includes the range of projects from basic science to translatable outputs. The team continues to add new members with specialized expertise to enhance epidemiologic, bioinformatic, and diagnostic approaches to animal TB. Incorporating a multi-disciplinary approach to animal TB will result in knowledge that can be translated into disease management and conservation strategies to enhance animal and human health, as well as conservation.​

user.pngProf Michele Miller