Dr Wynand Goosen is a VALIDATE Network Associate and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Animal TB Research Group, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences at Stellenbosch University South Africa. In this VALID8 interview, Wynand discusses Rhinos, Elephants and the lack of funding for young researchers in South Africa.
1 - What do you do?
My primary research focus is the multi-pronged approach to improve knowledge of the epidemiology, pathogenesis and immunology of zoonotic tuberculosis (TB) caused by M. bovis - and M. tuberculosis infections. This includes investigating the role of host genetics and immunology in susceptibility to TB; the genetic diversity of mycobacterial pathogens and their impact on wildlife and livestock; and the development of diagnostic assays for numerous host species. The work incorporates a continuum of basic to applied research both in the laboratory and field.
2 - What do you tell non-scientists you do?
I conduct research on animal TB and human TB in all mammals including domestic animals and African wildlife like African buffaloes, African elephants and rhinoceros in order to improve the rapid diagnosis thereof and our knowledge for future vaccine developments, conservation efforts and to avoid further transmission.
3 - What drew you to studying vaccines?
During my undergraduate studies (2008-2011) I was briefly introduced to the concept of zoonotic diseases in African wildlife and domestic animals, especially TB. This concept fascinated me and after doing some research into this field I quickly realised the importance thereof and lack of such research in South Africa. This led to me getting involved with a division who really wanted to pursue this type of research in wildlife.
4 - Why is your work important and what could your work lead to?
My work is important because even after so many years of TB research worldwide, it is still not fully understood in animals, especially wildlife that may act as reservoirs of such a disease hampering various eradication programmes. My research functions as the foundation for the early rapid diagnosis of TB and future TB vaccine developments in wildlife to avoid further transmission.
5 - What is the most interesting thing you have learned in your job?
How wide the wildlife host range of Mycobacterium bovis truly is. Till date, we have confirmed M. bovis infection in over 25 wildlife species from wildlife parks all over South Africa. These include various felines like leopards, lions and cheetahs to warthogs, meerkats, wild dogs, rhinoceros and elephants.
6 - What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is working together and collaboratively with health professionals with different training towards a single goal. These include clinicians, bioinformaticians, epidemiologists, immunologists, veterinarians, conservationists and microbiologists.
7 - What is the most challenging part of your job or research?
Most challenging part of my job/research is the lack of personal- and research funding in South Africa for young emerging researchers from my demographic.
8 - Why are vaccines important (particularly in your field)?
Vaccines play a vital role in the long-term solutions for effective prevention of existing and developing infectious diseases. They are efficient in preventing the transmission and spread of contagious animal diseases (zoonotic diseases) from animals to people and from animal to animal.
Find out more
You can find more about Wynand's research on his VALIDATE biography page.
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