Science made seriously sexy: Marisa Klopper

2012-07-28 16:00

Eastern Cape doctors were perplexed. The number of TB patients who were extensively drug resistant seemed to be on the increase – and they wanted answers.

Enter Marisa Klopper, a doctor’s daughter who is working on the first molecular study of drug-resistant TB in Eastern Cape.

So far, she has discovered that there is one dominant strain among highly drug-resistant TB cases, and that this strain is spreading and becoming even more resistant.

“Knowing this is important, because it can help us to diagnose patients earlier and to treat them more effectively,” she says.

“From further research we hope to discover new drug targets, which may lead to the development of new drugs. This is necessary and important, not only for the people from the Eastern Cape.”

The prevalent strain is called the atypical Beijing strain, which first appeared in 2006.

Now, 95% of extensive drug-resistant patients in Eastern Cape seem to be carrying it.

Klopper was drawn to the world of medical research when one of her father’s patients died.

She then did an honours degree in genetics at the University of Stellenbosch before starting a career in genetic psychiatry.

But her desire to make a medical breakthrough was always there, and in 2009 she began studying TB.

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