14 January 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Thabo Kessah
Dr Lisa Komoreng
Dr Lisa Komoreng’s research highlights traditional medicinal plant qualities used to deal with diseases like TB and elephantiasis.

The burden that diseases like tuberculosis (TB), lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), skin infections, and ear, nose and throat (ENT) infections bring to the country, mainly poverty-stricken communities, has prompted Dr Lisa Komoreng to focus her research on traditional medicinal plants.

 

South Africa, says Dr Komoreng, has the third highest number of reported cases and the fifth highest number of estimated prevalent cases, with the second highest burden of drug-resistant TB cases in the world amongst the 22 high-burden countries.

South Africa is burdened
by elephantiasis and treating
it remains a huge problem,
says Dr Lisa Komoreng.

 

“According to the Free State Provincial Strategic Plan (2012-2016), HIV and TB are the leading causes of death in the Province, with TB being the second most leading cause. Our country is also burdened by elephantiasis and treating it remains a huge problem. Patients are often turned away from some of the public hospitals, reasons being that there is no treatment in the country or that the disease needs specialist care. It with this in mind that my research focuses on providing treatment that is cheaper than western medicine, easily accessible, with fewer or no side effects,” she said.

 

“People suffering from elephantiasis are not only physically disabled, but they suffer mental, social and financial losses contributing to stigma and poverty. Some of the drugs used to treat the disease are ineffective against adult parasitic worms, which are the ones that cause the disease, and they also have side effects. Our research in dealing with these diseases enables us to work hand-in-hand with herbalists, traditional healers and people who have indigenous knowledge about the use of traditional medicine. We consult with them in order to acquire information about the medicinal plants that are used to treat and manage those diseases. Once they provide us with information, we collect the plant species together, which we subsequently take to the University herbarium for proper identification of their scientific names and to the laboratory for experiments,” she added.

 

Dr Komoreng is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences at the Qwaqwa Campus. She has authored and co-authored over 15 research articles and has presented her research at various national and international conferences.  Her research team comprises of 5 MSc and 4 PhD students.

 

The Thuthuka NRF Rating Track (2015 – 2017 and 2018 – 2020) funds the research project on elephantiasis.