PhD students

Hashini Nilushika Galappaththi-Arachchige

Hashini Nilushika Galappaththi-Arachchige

PhD student

Graduated as a medical doctor from the Medical University of Warzaw, Poland in 2009. Galappaththi- Arachchige has clinical work experience from the United Kingdom, Norway and Kenya. Her PhD will focus on diagnosis of Female Genital Schistosomiasis and the effect of three rounds of treatment in South African young females. She is planning to complete her PhD in 2017.

Completed PhDs

Elisabeth Kleppa

Elisabeth Kleppa

PhD 2015

Graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Bergen, Norway in 2007, Kleppa completed her PhD in 2015. She worked as a medical doctor at Bærum Hospital, Norway, before she did her Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (DTM&H) at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 2009. Her research focuses on the biological mechanisms behind the association between HIV and FGS.

Summary

More than 110 million Africans are estimated to be infected with Schistosoma (S.) haematobium, but it is still one of the so-called “neglected tropical diseases”. Poor countries bear the majority of the disease burden, contributing to the maintenance of the cycle of poverty.

In Africa, women are at a higher risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection than men, and this cannot be explained by behavioural factors alone. Biological risk factors seem to contribute to the differences in HIV prevalence between geographical regions and genders. This thesis will focus on female genital schistosomiasis and cervical ectopy, both factors hypothesised to facilitate the transmission of HIV through the genital mucosa. Genital schistosomiasis in women is characterized by lesions referred to as “sandy patches” that appear grainy or homogenous and are thought to be caused by the deposition of ova in the genital tissues. Sandy patches are often associated with abnormal mucosal blood vessels and contact bleeding due to the fragile mucosa. Cervical ectopy and female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) may be diagnosed by photocolposcopic examination, and both conditions are likely to be present before sexual debut. In addition to increased susceptibility to HIV infection, S. haematobium infection has been suggested to accelerate the progression of HIV infection, possibly through increased immune activation.

In this study, South African women attending high schools in KwaZulu-Natal were included. Blood, urine and cervical lavage samples were collected and a photocolposcopic examination performed.

We found that FGS was associated with a higher frequency of HIV target cells and HIV co-receptor expression in the genital compartment (the proportion of CD14+CCR5+ cells was higher in FGS positive (FGS+) than FGS-negative (FGS-), p = 0.036) and in blood (both the proportions of CD14+ cells (p = 0.042), and CD4+CCR5+ cells (p = 0.018) were higher in FGS+). Furthermore, praziquantel treatment decreased the proportion of HIV target cells in FGS-positive women. Both the CD14+ cell population and CCR5 expression by CD4+ cells decreased significantly in both compartments after anti-schistosomal treatment (p = 0.043 and 0.025, respectively). We found no significant difference in CD4 cell counts in women with or without S. haematobium infection. Furthermore, we found that cervical ectopy was associated with the prevalence of chlamydia infection (adjusted OR 1.78, p = 0.033) and with HIV infection in the youngest study subjects (OR 2.19, p = 0.014).

Future studies are needed to show whether treatment of schistosomiasis and/or intervention against cervical ectopy may become tools in the battle against the HIV epidemic.

Sigve Holmen

Sigve Holmen

PhD 2017

Graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Oslo, Norway in 2009. Holmen worked as a University Lecturer for the University of Oslo and as a medical doctor in Harding Hospital. His PhD work explores computerised image analysis as a new tool in diagnosing female genital schistosomiasis in low-resource settings.

Summary

Mobile phones can now be used to diagnose the world’s second most common tropical disease after malaria! By taking pictures of the patient’s mucous membranes where the parasite has laid its eggs, computer image analysis can diagnose female genital schistosomiasis.

Female genital schistosomiasis is a waterborne parasitic disease that mainly affects women and young girls in sub-Saharan Africa. It is believed that as many as 35 million suffer from the disease caused by the parasite Schistosoma haematobium, a blood fluke. It is found in many freshwater sources used for daily chores such as washing, swimming and fishing. It is sufficient that the victim’s skin comes into contact with the water.The parasite penetrates the skin and enters the blood stream. Here the parasite is brought to the liver where it matures into adult form and finds a mate. Then the parasite couplemigratesagainst the venous bloodstream to the urinary and genital organs where they start laying eggs. One parasite pair can live for up to 40 years in a patient, and the eggs they lay can cause massive lesions in the bladder and genital organs.

In female genital schistosomiasis, lesions are caused by the parasite’s deposition of eggs in the genital mucous membranes. The injuries appear as yellow areas, sometimes grainy in appearance (sandy) with abnormal blood vessels in and around the lesions. The damages can cause mildcontact bleeding, and it has been shown that there is a strong immune response in the tissue surrounding the eggs. These two phenomena are believed to increase the woman’s risk of being infected with HIV, which is often endemic in the same area as this parasite. In addition, patients – adults and children alike – have a number of genital symptoms: itching, burning, malodorous discharge, discolouration, bleeding and pain during sexual intercourse.

Unfortunately, there are no good diagnostic tools for female genital schistosomiasis. We therefore wanted to find a simple, objective and automated way to diagnose this disease using digital image analysis. Our goal is to pave the way for a digital diagnostic tool that can be used in areas with little resources and a lack of health professionals with expertise in tropical medicine. Diagnostics in the form of software is easy to distribute – even to remote areas of Africa, thanks to the mobile revolution in recent years. The tool could be used on a variety of devices such as mobile phones, tablets, computers, or other, in the form of an “app” that you install.

By photographing the damage in the mucous membranes, we used colour analyses to identify the yellow areas characteristic of female genital schistosomiasis. In addition, we used image analysis to identify and characterise the abnormal blood vessels surrounding the lesions.We found that these are typical because they tend to appear in a circular configuration and that they have a more complex form than other abnormal blood vessels.

This automated digital image analysis represents the first step towards developing a diagnostic tool for use in areas where this disease is prevalent. Further research is needed to investigate how this tool can best be implemented in these areas and how well the diagnostic accuracy is in a real clinical situation.

Pavitra Pillay

Pavitra Pillay

PhD 2016

Pillay graduated as a Medical Technologist in 1992 and worked as a cytotechnologist at Regional Laboratory Services, KZN, South Africa, before joining Durban University of Technology where she currently lectures to Medical Technology students. In 2004 she attained a Masters in Public Health from University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her research focuses on genital schistosomiasis as a risk factor for cervical  cancer and on developing laboratory based diagnostic tools for FGS.

Nonhlahla Mbhata

Nonhlahla Mbhata

PhD 2017

Graduated with M Med Sci (Medical Microbiology) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa in 1999. She worked as a medical technologist in the pathology laboratory at the Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa before she joined Durban University of Technology in June 2003 where she is currently working. Her PhD focused on the high-risk HPV types distribution and persistence in young women in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and it also includes a study on self-sampling acceptability by young women in the same region.

Other students that have contributed to Bilharzia Research

Published paper as first author
Adele Munsami
Dr Ana Randjelovic (J)
Anna Kildemoes
Dr Dina Edvarda Thomassen Morgas
Dr Elin Helland (J)
Dr Hanne Marie Norseth
Dr Ingrid Elise Amlie Hegertun (J)
Dr Kristin M.S. Gundersen (J)
Kundai Vickie Magaisa
Dr Marije Baan
Dr Mari Molvik (J)
Dr Simen Tveten Berge
Dr Synne  Grønvold Frønæs (J)

Other student assignments (Masters level)
Some of these have articles in progress

Andile Angel Maphumulo
Andrea Lothe
Camilla Kopperstad
Cornelia Kristiansen
Dr Christine Aurlund
Edmore Mazani
Dr Erik Egeland Christensen
Dr Erika Carina Hallerstig
Dr Hanne Asdal Eriksen

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(J) Joint first authorship with one other author (equal contributions)

 

 

Dr Ingrid Homme Sørensen
Kristine Hjetland
Nkosinathi Banhela
Nqobile Ntokozo Zulu
Dr Mari Elisabeth Bøe
Dr Oda Lommerud Jørgensen
Siphosenkosi G. Zulu
Solrun Søfteland
Una Kristin Waldeland
Vera Vik Bjarkø

Honorary recipients of Marie Curie Fellowships
Early stage researchers

Andile Mtshali, Anele Kwitshana, Carolyn Ester Clark, Christine Aurlund, Debbie Clark, Gitte Garvik, Hege Lovise Lundgren, Ida Amelie Nomusa Helgesen, Halfdan Kjetland, Ingrid Lindstrøm, John Erik Adolf Armelius, Joyce Nonhlanhla Mbathi, Kari Klinge, Kumud, Nina Henriksen, Lotte Straathof, Marije Baan, Susanne S. Klungtvedt, Audun Klyve Gulbrandsen, Håvard Holme, Pavitra Pillay, Elisabeth Kleppa, Kristine Lillebø, Anna Kildemoes, Sigve Holmen, Andile Maphumulo, Hashini Nilushika Galappaththi-Arachchige, Siphosenkosi Gift Zulu.

(PIRSES-269245)