Researching DNA-based diagnostic methods.
Professor Oriel Matlhahane Thekisoe, associate professor of the department of zoology and entomology at the University of the Free State, used his research projects to develop molecular diagnostic assays for trypanosomosis (a disease found in both humans and animals) and theileriosis (a disease found in cattle).
His research focuses on DNA-based diagnostic methods, which applies loop mediated isothermal amplification (Lamp) and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques.
This results in the DNA being amplified to detect infection within one to two and half hours.
“A parallel can be drawn to when a patient goes to a hospital and has a sample taken. Often, the patient has to wait for a week to get results. The research we conducted has resulted in improved diagnostic techniques so we are able to get results as quickly as possible,” says Thekisoe.
This, he says, is leading to faster diagnosis when it comes to infections in livestock.
“When one looks at most of the diseases found in animals, the clinical symptoms are generally the same. So it typically needs an experienced person to diagnose the illness in livestock or to look under a microscope to find out exactly what is wrong. However, this takes time and is a more costly exercise. With DNA-techniques that are highly sensitive, we can now be certain of an accurate and rapid diagnosis,” he says.
Such has been the improvement, that a Lamp diagnosis can yield results within an hour while PCR can take less than three hours.
Given the fact that human and animal trypanosomosis as well as bovine theileriosis are diseases of economic importance worldwide, this faster turn-around time could yield significant benefits.
Thekisoe has also written a diagnostic manual using data produced from the trypanosome Lamp project.
The manual is available online and is used for training students and other scientists at the National Research Centre for Protozoan Diseases at Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in Japan.
This supplement has been paid for by the Mail & Guardian’s advertisers. Contents and photographs were supplied and approved by the NSTF.