Dr Natalie Mansvelt

Co-generating a people-centred approach to addressing student hunger at a South African University

This study answers the question of how student hunger can be addressed through co-generating a people-centred approach at one higher education institution in South Africa. Through the application of the participatory action research design, the study has shown that students, who are usually viewed as passive beneficiaries to welfarist approaches, have significant contributions to make in our understanding and ways of addressing student hunger when they become active partners in the resolution process. The approach developed in this study offers comprehensive strategies for the stakeholders who attend to student hunger, to collaborate towards resolving the complex issue.

Ms Sydlynn Dorné Hambury

Schistosomiasis: knowledge, attitudes and practices among grade 4–7 primary school children and a retrospective prevalence in Kwanobuhle, Eastern Cape

Schistosomiasis, commonly known as Bilharzia, is prevalent in many developing countries, particularly in Africa. The debilitating effects of Schistosomiasis remains a public health concern in South Africa. Water contact practices in infested water bodies predisposes humans to infection. The last reported case of urinary schistosomiasis from Uitenhage (Kariega) was recorded in 1959, with a prevalence of 0.9%. Thus, it has been approximately 62 years since the last urinary schistosomiasis report had been documented from Kariega. However, isolated cases of urinary schistosomiasis in the study area had been reported in clinics in the past few years. It is a clear indication that the disease has not been eradicated from the study area. Since data indicating the status of urinary schistosomiasis in KwaNobuhle since 1959 is lacking, the current status of urinary schistosomiasis in the study area is unknown. Furthermore, Knowledge, attitude and practices (KAP) studies on schistosomiasis among schoolchildren under 15 years are lacking in the study area. Therefore, this study investigated the KAP on schistosomiasis of schoolchildren in Grades 4 to 7 from four selected primary schools in the study area as well as the prevalence of urinary schistosomiasis retrospectively in KwaNobuhle from 2014 to 2018.

The overall knowledge and attitudes on schistosomiasis were poor. The study observed that 54% of the study participants have heard of schistosomiasis previously. There was a positive correlation between knowledge and attitude. Furthermore, a gender related difference based on practices emerged significant in the study. It was further found that males 99 (93%) had a higher percentage of infections than females 6 (6%), and the highest rate of infections was found in individuals between the ages of 10 and 19 years. The results of this study could assist in designing effective preventative and control programmes geared towards eliminating and possibly eradicating schistosomiasis from the study area and South Africa at large.

Mrs Janet Barry

Perceptions of blended learning by academic staff in the Health Sciences faculty at Nelson Mandela University

Numerous studies have investigated the use of blended learning by academic staff at tertiary institutions. The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of blended learning by academic staff at the Faculty of Health Sciences at Nelson Mandela University. A related objective was to identify barriers and facilitators to the adoption of blended learning by academic staff. A sequential, exploratory mixed-methods design was adopted for this study whereby Phase 1 (focus groups) was used to inform Phase 2 (questionnaire) of the study. Results were analysed from both phases and organised according to strategies, support, and structure of a blended learning adoption framework. Existing support structures to assist with blended learning adoption, understanding of what blended learning is, confidence in using blended learning tools, and time to attend training were some of the findings of the study. The researcher concluded that academic staff in the Health Sciences Faculty at Nelson Mandela University are positioned in the second stage of the blended learning adoption framework, namely the early adoption stage of blended learning. These findings imply that existing strategies and support within the Faculty and the University need to be further developed, and structures put into place to move to an advanced stage of adoption of blended learning by academic staff in Health Sciences Faculty of Nelson Mandela University.

Dr Sanelisiwe Nzuza

The Impact of Combination Antiretroviral Therapy on Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes

HIV/AIDS remains a serious global health problem since the pandemic began in 1981. According to the UNAIDS 2020 report, 38 million people are living with HIV/AIDS globally, and 47% of those are women of child-bearing age.

In Southern Africa, the incidence of HIV infection among pregnant women is over 30%. Almost 92 % of HIV-infected pregnant women are now on antiretroviral therapy (ART) to prevent mother-to-child-transmission (MTCT) of HIV. Pregnant HIV positive women on antiretroviral therapy are prone to having preterm deliveries and small-for-gestational age births. Poor obstetric outcomes, including neurological disorders, have been documented in such premature infants in the long term. Therefore, our study aims to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with poor placental development in pregnant women treated with antiretroviral drugs. Findings of this study may potentially influence the need for the identification of biomarkers or target molecules for early detection of adverse pregnancy outcomes and therapeutic interventions to reverse or attenuate ART induce placental pathology. The translational aspect of our study is to improve management of HIV infections in pregnancy, reduction of MTCT, improve obstetric outcomes and undesirable metabolic complications postpartum both in the mother and the newborn.

Dr Ntokozo Shirley Dambuza

A pharmacological and metabolic study of a novel cytotoxic flavonoid C-apioglucoside isolated from Drimia altissima (Asparagaceae) on a mouse model

Natural product research has contributed tremendously in drug discovery, not only for cancer treatment but also for other diseases that include malaria, diabetes, inflammation, infections etc. Many biologically active compounds have been isolated from plant, but the bioassay-guided isolation is usually limited to in vitro testing. Once the compound has been successfully isolated in its pure form, the question of systemic exposure is usually considered. For any biologically active compound to exert its effect, it must be absorbed in order to reach its target tissue. Therefore, few newly isolated compounds or new chemical entities (NCEs) successfully make it to the market because of poor pharmacokinetics. In a recent study, a cytotoxic flavonoid C-apioglucoside (Altissimin) was isolated from Drimia altissima, commonly known as the ‘African Squill’, and showed potent in vitro antiproliferative activity against HeLa cervical cancer cells by induction of early M phase arrest and induction of apoptosis (phosphatidylserine translocation).

Structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies will be conducted as a guide to identify commercially available analogues with possible similar pharmacological properties and more antiproliferative studies using Altissimin and these analogues will conducted on more cancer cell lines to determine possible mechanisms of action and toxicity screening will be performed on non-cancerous cells for selectivity analysis. As mentioned earlier, regardless of the compound’s efficacy in vitro, it is important that it reaches the target site in vivo at sufficiently high concentrations and for a long enough period of time to exert its effects. Therefore, this study will also determine pharmacological properties of this compound using a mouse model by exploring its absorption, distribution, and metabolism and excretion behaviour. Metabolism studies will also be performed on mouse hepatocytes with the aim of identifying its metabolites and using drug activity prediction software to identify metabolites that are active, highly reactive or toxic.