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. In 2017 she joined the Animal TB Research Group at Stellenbosch University as a Postdoctoral Researcher. Her current research focuses on developing tools with diagnostic potential for tuberculosis (TB) detection in wildlife species including large felids (African lion, leopard and cheetah), African elephants, hippopotamus and various antelope and primate 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.
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.
Pamela Ncube completed her BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, BSc Honours in Microbiology, and MSc in Molecular Biology through Stellenbosch University in 2015, 2016, and 2021 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. In 2019, she was a shared MSc student with the Host-Pathogen and Animal TB research groups, and her research focused 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. In 2021, she will be continuing her studies as a PhD student to further build more knowledge of her MSc work. Her PhD project will validate the in vitro acid stress model applied to M. bovis during her MSc, explore the macrophage infection models, and examine molecular mechanisms involved during these stress conditions. Understanding M. bovis persister formation will build 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.
Maureen Kamau is a wildlife veterinarian and researcher in Kenya, currently pursuing an MSc in molecular biology with the Animal TB group and a veterinary research fellow with the Smithsonian Institute’s Global Health Program based Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia County in Central Kenya. Her career objective is to help people and governments make evidence-based decisions about wildlife health and management by conducting applied research that contributes to knowledge of disease dynamics in wildlife and at the human-wildlife-livestock interface. For her MSc thesis, Maureen is working on developing a rapid quantitative PCR for the improved detection of Coxiella burnetii DNA from ticks at watering holes in Laikipia County in Central Kenya.
Jana van Heerden completed a BSc in Human Life Sciences at Stellenbosch University majoring in Physiology and Genetics. She joined the Animal TB Research Group in 2021, as a BSc Hons student in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics. Her research project will focus on the detection of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) in African Elephants in the Kruger National Park.