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Joint PhD awarded by the Vrije and Stellenbosch Universities
Author: Mandi Barnard
Published: 04/02/2016

​​Dr Regan Solomons recently became the first person at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences to qualify for the joint PhD degree between the Vrije University (VU) and Stellenbosch University (SU) after he successfully defended his PhD dissertation on 'Improving early diagnosis of tuberculous meningitis (TBM) in children' in Amsterdam.

Solomons is a full-time senior specialist in Paediatric Neurology and senior lecturer in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at SU.

His joint supervisors were Prof Johan Schoeman, SU and Prof Marceline van Furth of the VU. For the duration of his studies, he received the VU - National Research Foundation - Desmond Tutu scholarship.

Solomons said that the defence in Amsterdam was a memorable occasion and he was privileged to be accompanied by his family.

He undertook this thesis as TBM is the most devastating complication of tuberculosis and a major cause of death and disability in young children, a scenario that Solomons encounters regularly at the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital.

The outcome of TBM closely depends on the stage of illness at presentation. Early detection is associated with reduced complications and death, but is difficult due to non-specific symptoms of general ill health.

The most important findings of his study were that a research case definition based on clinical, laboratory and radiological findings provided excellent diagnostic accuracy for detection of TBM. Cerebrospinal fluid glucose and protein detected TBM with good sensitivity, but chest X-ray was unhelpful. Newer diagnostic tests were insufficient to rule-out TB, but when they were positive, unnecessary treatment delay and potential life-threatening consequences were prevented.

Photo: Dr Regan Solomons and his family with representatives of the two universities in Amsterdam. From left: Chadli Solomons, Gailyn Solomons, Profs Mariana Kruger, Johan Schoeman, Dr Regan Solomons, Nicolas Solomons, Prof Marceline van Furth, Dr Douwe Visser 

This article appeared in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences' digital publication VIVUS. Visit to subscribe.