Prof Trudi O'Neill
Microbiology and Biochemistry
Microbial Biochemical and Food Biotechnology
Microbiology & Biochemistry

Short CV

Hester G. (Trudi) O’Neill (née Van Rensburg) obtained her PhD from the University of Pretoria in 2001, whilst employed as a researcher at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute. Her research focussed mainly on foot-and-mouth disease recombinant vaccine development. Specifically, it involved the establishment of a reverse genetics system using a genome-length infectious cDNA clone of one of the endemic FMD serotypes. She worked as post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town in Medical Biochemistry with Prof. Ed Sturrock as host and at the North-West University with Prof. Albie van Dijk as host. In 2012 she joins the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the University of the Free State as senior lecturer in Biochemistry. Current research focuses on the development of a low-cost rotavirus vaccine for use in Africa, specifically through the expression of virus-like particles in yeast. Investigations into rotavirus-host interactions, specifically, the role of lipids during rotavirus infection, are another research focus. The newly developed rotavirus reverse genetics system will be employed during these investigations. In addition, studies into rotavirus strain diversity, specifically in Mozambique, are investigated. This work involves whole genome rotavirus characterization using next-generation sequencing technologies. She is the interim chair of the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD), an African-based network that is aimed at empowering current and future African researchers to support evidence-based control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases.


Publications (Short List)

Publications since 2012:

  1. Strydom A, Motanyane L, Nyaga MM, João ED, Cuamba A, Mandomando I, Cassocera M, de Deus N, O`Neill H. (2019) Whole-genome characterization of G12 rotavirus strains detected in Mozambique reveals a co-infection with a GXP[14] strain of possible animal origin. Journal of General Virology, 100, 932-937. doi: 10.1099/jgv.0.001270.
  2. Strydom, A., João, E.D., Motanyane, L., Nyaga, M.M., Potgieter, A.C., Cuamba A., Mandomando, I., Cassocera, M., de Deus, N., O`Neill, H.G. (2019) Whole genome analyses of DS-1-like Rotavirus A strains detected in children with acute diarrhoea in southern Mozambique suggest several reassortment events. Infection Genetics and Evolution, 69, 68-75. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2019.01.011.
  3. João, E.D., Strydom, A., O’Neill, H.G., Cuamba, A., Cassocera, M., Acácio, S., Mandomando, I., Motanyane, L., Page, N., De Deus, N. (2018) Rotavirus A strains obtained from children with acute gastroenteritis in Mozambique, 2012-2013: G and P genotypes and phylogenetic analysis of VP7 and partial VP4 genes. Archives of Virology, 163, 153-165. doi: 10.1007/s00705-017-3575-y.
  4. Sander, W.J., O’Neill, H.G., Pohl, C.H. (2017) Prostaglandin E2 as a modulator of viral infections. Frontiers in Physiology, 8:89.doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00089
  5. Jere, K.C., O`Neill, H.G., Potgieter, A.C., van Dijk, A.A. (2014) Chimaeric Virus-Like Particles Derived from Consensus Genome Sequences of Human Rotavirus Strains Co-Circulating in Africa. PLoS One, 9(9):e105167.
  6. Wentzel, J.F., Yuan, L., Rao, S., Van Dijk, A.A. and O’Neill, H.G. (2013) Consensus sequence determination and elucidation of the evolutionary history of a rotavirus Wa variant reveal a close relationship to various Wa variants derived from the original Wa strain. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 20C, 276-283.
  7. O’Neill, H.G., Mzilahowa, T., De Deus, N., Njenga, S.M., Mmbaga, E.J. and Kariuki, T.M. (2013) Evaluation of the European Foundation Initiative into African Research in Neglected Tropical Diseases by the African Fellows. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases,7, 3, e2019.
  8. Mlera, L., O`Neill, H.G., Jere, K.C., van Dijk, A.A. (2013) Whole-genome consensus sequence analysis of a South African rotavirus SA11 sample reveals a mixed infection with two close derivatives of the SA11-H96 strain. Archives of Virology, 158, 1021-1030.
  9. Jere, K.C., Mlera, L., O’Neill, H.G., Peenze, I. and Van Dijk, A.A. (2012) Whole genome sequence analyses of three African bovine rotaviruses reveal that they emerged through multiple reassortment events between rotaviruses from difference mammalia species. Veterinary Microbiology, 159, 245-250.


Area(s) of Interest

  • Rotavirus vaccine development:
    • Live attenuation using rotavirus reverse genetics system (Albie van Dijk, North-West University Potchefstroom, SA; Christiaan Potgieter, Deltamune, SA; Reimar Johne, Federal Institute of Risk Assessment, Berlin, Germany)
    • Virus-like particle production in yeast (Koos Albertyn, UFS; Martin Blasco, INTI, Argentina, Johann Görgens, Stellenbosch University, SA)
  • Rotavirus-host interactions, specifically the role of lipids during rotavirus infection (Carlien Pohl, UFS)
  • Rotavirus diversity studies (Nilsa de Deus, National Institute of Health, Mozambique, Martin Nyaga, UFS)


Courses Presented

Community Service

Service Learning



Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531


Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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