UKZN PhD for SA Medical Research Council Senior Scientist
Research by PhD graduate Dr Sarita Naidoo, has provided a better understanding of the relationship between metronidazole resistance and response to treatment in women infected with the sexually transmitted pathogen, Trichomonas vaginalis.
Despite the high prevalence and many serious health-related outcomes of T. vaginalis infection, Naidoo felt this organism remained under-recognised. She says there are currently very few studies that describe strain typing or antimicrobial susceptibility testing of South African isolates of T. vaginalis.
Her PhD investigated the degree of metronidazole resistance amongst local T. vaginalis isolates and assessed the correlation between in vitro resistance and treatment outcome in a subset of patients that returned for follow-up. Six other antibiotics were also tested for their potential activity against the organism. In addition, the study investigated methodologies that would contribute to a more meaningful interpretation of susceptibility testing of T. vaginalis.
‘We evaluated the utility of current susceptibility testing methods for T. vaginalis; and developed a molecular typing method to characterise T. vaginalis isolates,’ said Naidoo. ‘We also developed a method for determination of metronidazole levels in vaginal fluid. This method has the potential to be used in future clinical trials to investigate the relationship between treatment failure and metronidazole absorption and vaginal secretion in females with trichomoniasis.’
The study highlighted the need for the development of globally accepted breakpoints and standardized methodology for T. vaginalis susceptibility testing.
‘I am both excited and relieved,’ Naidoo said. ‘This has been a long and stressful journey and I’m really happy that I finally accomplished what I set out to do. It is also very rewarding to know that I’ve made an original contribution to the field of T. vaginalis research.’
Naidoo said it was sometimes very difficult to find a balance between family time and the demands of her career. ‘Fortunately my husband is very involved and helps a lot with our two sons. Multitasking and being organised helps too!’
She thanked her family for keeping her motivated to complete her PhD. She also said that her supervisor, Professor Willem Sturm, had been an amazing mentor and provided constructive feedback, expert advice and excellent research guidance throughout this study.
Naidoo is registered as a Medical Biological Scientist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa and is currently employed as a Senior Scientist at the South African Medical Research Council, HIV Prevention Research Unit, where she has been involved in the management and implementation of several large HIV prevention clinical trials.
‘I decided to study at UKZN because of the high calibre research being conducted at the University; and the opportunity to work with and learn from the experts in my chosen field.’