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Nikita Sitharam's Innovative Arbovirus Dashboards to Redefine Epidemic Response in Africa
Outeur: CERI Media and Communication _ Maambele Khosa
Gepubliseer: 11/06/2023

​​Nikita Sitharam, a dedicated bioinformatics Master's student at Stellenbosch University, is revolutionizing epidemic response in Africa through her ground-breaking research on arboviruses genomes. Sitharam's primary focus is the development of innovative dashboards that harness the power of bioinformatics to provide vital information for public health officials and policymakers. Her work has the potential to transform the way arbovirus outbreaks are monitored, analyzed, and combated across the continent.

Arboviruses are viruses transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks, pose significant health risks in Africa. Sitharam recognized the need for comprehensive data visualization tools that could effectively track and analyze the prevalence and spread of these diseases. Through her tireless efforts, she aims to empower public health experts with the necessary information to make informed decisions and implement targeted interventions, ultimately saving lives.

Sitharam is developing dashboards that integrate sophisticated bioinformatics algorithms to process and interpret vast amounts of data. By leveraging cutting-edge technology and data analytics techniques, her dashboards provide real-time insights into arbovirus transmission patterns, outbreak hotspots, and potential areas of intervention.

Beyond the technical aspects of her research, Sitharam's work also highlights the power of diversity and inclusivity in scientific endeavours. As a student at Stellenbosch University's CERI and Faculty of Science Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB), she is part of an organization that values representation and has made significant strides in transforming its demographics. With over 60% women and a diverse range of postgraduate students, which >90% are from Coloured, Indian or African background, CERI reflects the importance of inclusivity in driving scientific progress.

“Sitharam's research is a testament to the potential of bioinformatics in revolutionizing public health responses. By creating user-friendly and informative dashboards, she is bridging the gap between complex data and actionable insights, enabling decision-makers to respond effectively to arbovirus outbreaks. Her innovative approach has the potential to transform the way epidemics are managed and controlled, not just in Africa but globally” comment Professor Tulio de Oliveira, director of CERI at Stellenbosch University.

As Sitharam continues her studies under the mentorship of renowned researchers, including Dr. Cheryl Baxter, Dr. Joicy Xavier and Prof. Tulio de Oliveira, to develop arbovirus dashboards to make a lasting impact. With their guidance, she gains access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise in bioinformatics, epidemiology, and viral genomics, further enhancing the quality and relevance of her research.

Nikita Sitharam's commitment to leveraging bioinformatics for epidemic response, coupled with her collaborative spirit and dedication to inclusivity, makes her a true trailblazer in her field. Through her innovative arbovirus dashboards, she is not only shaping the future of public health but also inspiring a new generation of researchers to drive positive change in the fight against infectious diseases.​