Tanya Kerr studied a BSc in Conservation Ecology and worked at Shamwari Game Reserve before combining her background in conservation and her interest in wildlife infectious diseases to obtain her PhD from Stellenbosch University in 2016. Her PhD research focused on the molecular epidemiology and the evolution of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) in African lions and leopards in the Kruger National Park. Her work in the Animal TB Group focuses on developing tools with diagnostic potential for tuberculosis (TB) detection in wildlife species including large felids (African lion, leopard and cheetah), African elephants and various antelope species. Using these tools, we hope to be able to evaluate the epidemiology of TB in these various wildlife species.
Wynand Johan Goosen was a “founding" member of the Animal TB Research Group when it was started in 2014. He upgraded from his MSc to a PhD, which he completed in 2016. His research focus has been immune responses of buffalo and cattle to M. bovis. Since graduating, Wynand joined an internationally known TB research group based at Groote Schuur Hospital, UCT under the mentorship of Prof Keertan Dheda. During his time at UCT, Wynand has learned a lot about designing and developing innovative and new diagnostic molecular tools for the diagnosis of drug-resistant tuberculosis. He spearheaded various therapeutic intervention projects surrounding the treatment of XDR-TB infected patients and co-designed devices able to measure the infectiousness of these patients in the community. Wynand rejoined the Animal TB-Group in 2018 as a postdoctoral research fellow with a focus on TB-related projects in rhinoceros and elephants.
Josephine Chileshe did her MSc in Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria. She then worked as a lab manager at a diagnostic veterinary laboratory in Zambia before starting her PhD in the Animal TB group. Her project aims to identify biomarkers and develop diagnostic tests for Mycobacterium bovis infection in African rhinoceros.
Tina Meiring completed her BSc in Human Life Sciences and honours in genetics at Stellenbosch University. She joined the Animal TB group in 2018 and started her MSc which focused on investigating the genomic diversity in the endangered African wild dog. She used whole-genome sequencing of DNA extracted from banked whole blood of 22 wild dogs in the Kruger National Park to investigate this. She recently upgraded her MSc to a PhD and is currently sequencing 50 additional wild dogs from KNP and will try to identify regions in the wild dog genome that may impact susceptibility to Mycobacterium bovis infection. She will be developing tools to identify genetic factors conferring adaptive advantages in this species.
Charlene Clarke completed her BScAgric degree in animal science at Stellenbosh University. She then worked as an animal technician and then as a laboratory technologist at an animal in vitro fertilisation facility. Hereafter she did her BSc (Hons) and MSc in the Animal TB research group. Her MSc investigated the temporal changes in immune responses to Mycobacterium bovis in cattle and African buffaloes. Her PhD aims to evaluate systemic and local immune responses during Mycobacterium bovis infection in African buffaloes. Orcid: 0000-0002-9497-2614.
Debbie Cooke has been working as an Animal Health technician for the Department of Agriculture's Veterinary Services since 1997 and has been stationed at the Veterinary Epidemiology unit for the last 15 years. She completed her MSc in Mycobacterium avium in free-ranging poultry in 2017 and has joined the Animal TB group in 2020. Her PhD project will investigate the diagnosis and epidemiology of TB in goats.
Candice de Waal majored in Biochemistry and Genetics for her BSc at Stellenbosch University. She then completed her BSc honours with the Animal TB group, where she started work on developing a real-time PCR assay to genotype species of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. Her MSc research will focus on the identification of novel cytokine biomarkers for tuberculosis detection in African elephants (Loxodonta africana).
Kat Smith completed a BSc degree in Molecular biology and a BSc honours degree in Microbiology at Stellenbosch University. Her project involved the isolation of pathogenic yeast species and optimization of biofilm micro-pollutant extraction from Stellenbosch rivers. Her MSc will focus on the evaluation of circulating and cell-mediated candidate biomarkers of early Mycobacterium bovis infection, latency and disease in African buffaloes (Syncerus caffer).
Samantha Goldswain completed her BSc in Molecular Biology, majoring in genetics and microbiology, at Stellenbosch University. Thereafter she moved to the University of Pretoria to pursue her dream of getting into Veterinary school and did her honours in genetics. Her project focused on characterizing the genetic diversity of an invasive wasp species, Leptocybe invasa, a dominant invader of eucalyptus plantations. Her MSc will be focusing on using immunohistochemistry to detect Mycobacterium bovis in suspected cases of bovine tuberculosis in African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) tissue samples from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.
Pamela Ncube completed her BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and BSc Honours in Microbiology through Stellenbosch University in 2015 and 2016 respectively. In her honours, she investigated the diversity of Cladosporium (a fungus believed to exacerbate asthma and upper respiratory infections) in indoor environments in Gauteng and Western Cape provinces. Currently, she is a shared MSc student with the Host-Pathogen and Animal TB research groups and her research focuses on the characterization of Mycobacterium bovis persister formation in the South African wildlife population from 6 different locations including Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. Understanding M. bovis persister formation will form a foundation in understanding whether latency (an asymptomatic state of tuberculosis) exists with animals.
Rachiel Gumbo graduated with a BSc Honours in Biological Sciences from Midlands State University in Zimbabwe where she majored in Genetics and Industrial Microbiology. She went on to work, first as a lab assistant at Hwange Colliery Hospital Laboratory (Zimbabwe) and then as a teacher, before joining the Animal TB Research Group in 2019 as an honours student, where she looked at developing a Gene Expression Assay for the detection of Mycobacterium bovis in cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and leopards (Panthera pardus). Her MSc will expand on her Honours work and aims to identify immunological biomarkers that can be used for the detection of M. bovis in cheetahs and leopards.
Rebecca Dwyer completed her undergraduate BSc in Microbiology and Biochemistry, and her BscHons degree in Microbiology at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. Her project involved the screening of crude macrofungal extracts for anti-TB activity. In 2019 she worked as a laboratory analyst at Microchem in Cape Town. She joined the Animal TB group in 2020; her project will focus on the identification of immunological biomarkers to be applied for diagnostic testing for M. bovis in African rhinoceros, as well as an in-depth examination of the epidemiology of the disease in these animals.