Spreading of TB curbed

2018-01-17 06:02
Dr Anneke van der Spoel van DijkPhoto: Supplied

Dr Anneke van der Spoel van DijkPhoto: Supplied

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Research by Dr Anneke van der Spoel van Dijk to investigate the spread of tuberculosis (TB) in the Free State could bring relief to patients.

According to a statement by the University of the Free State (UFS), she is using techniques such as next generation sequencing, spoligotyping and Miru-VNTR typing in her ambitious quest to find a solution to the spread of TB.

Van der Spoel van Dijk, a senior medical scientist in the Department of Medical Microbiology at the UFS, also looks at drug resistance in her research. This work informs decisions about how to best treat patients with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). She employs rapid molecular techniques to track one of Africa’s most life-threatening diseases.

Scientists assist the National Health Laboratory Service and the Department of Health in trying to refine the diagnostic tools to identify these cases earlier.

Van der Spoel van Dijk explains. “Until recently, it took up to two years to fine-tune treatment decisions for patients with MDR-TB. Patients get a cocktail of anti-TB drugs, but it takes time to find the right combination. Re-infection and relapse (patients stopping treatment for several reasons) add to the diagnostic and treatment ma­nagement challenges. Now doctors can reduce the time needed for diagnostic certainty to about seven days, while new drugs allow the reduction of treatment from more than 18 to nine months. This can have an enormous impact on the lives of many patients,” says Van der Spoel van Dijk.

Van der Spoel van Dijk’s work forms part of research in the faculty looking at resistance development in TB strains. She is currently also doing her doctoral thesis on the differences and incidence of MDR-TB among adolescents versus adults.

“It is a complicated picture, but we hope to unravel it to support better diagnostic tools and patient care,” she says.

As part of the National Health Laboratory Service, her department is playing an important role in TB diagnostics and the training of scientists and future pathologists.

“Our work is contributing to the global vision to stop TB by 2035,” she says.

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