22 September 2023 | Story Supplied | Photo Supplied
Milton Mogotsi, a PhD student in Medical Virology, won the Dr Lehlohonolo Mathengtheng Trophy at the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Faculty Research Forum.

Milton Mogotsi, a PhD student in Medical Virology, was awarded the Dr Lehlohonolo Mathengtheng Trophy at the recently held Faculty of Health SciencesFaculty Research Forum

Mogotsi was the recipient of the trophy for best presentation by a PhD student in the laboratory category. He is supervised by Prof Martin Nyaga, Associate Professor in the Division of Virology and Head of UFS-NGS Unit, and co-supervised by Prof Trudi O’Neill, Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry.

The Research Forum offers staff members and postgraduate students an opportunity to present the results of their research. The Faculty Research Forum aims to provide a platform to disseminate outputs and findings of all the research conducted in the faculty, and to also provide junior researchers/postgraduate students exposure.

Results of his study 

Mogotsi presented the results of his PhD study titled “Longitudinal gut virome analysis provides insights into early gut colonisation and temporal dynamics in paediatric subjects from the Free State Province, South Africa”. His research sought to understand the longitudinal evolution of viruses colonising the gastrointestinal tract of infants during their first year of life. In this study, metagenomic next generation sequencing was performed on faecal specimens collected longitudinally from a cohort of 17 infants during their first six months. These infants were recruited from three public hospitals around Bloemfontein after consent was attained from the mothers. 

The results of this study revealed that the guts of infants are highly colonised by diverse and dynamic viral communities, formed by a richness of different viruses infecting humans, predominantly those that are associated with gastroenteritis in children. These pathogenic agents were detected as early as one day old and increasing in abundance and diversity over time, even in the absence of clinical manifestations. 

The detection of such pathogenic viruses highlights the importance of screening for intestinal pathogens at an early age to close existing gaps and enhance the effectiveness of current treatment. In addition, the detection of viruses of unknown origin in faeces of infants underscores the need to extend sampling to mothers to better understand transmission patterns of such pathogens. Importantly, interventions to improve water quality, sanitation, and hygiene at the household level would be very impactful in minimising viral transmissions to infants and reducing the high childhood morbidities and mortalities in Africa.

A great honour

“As an emerging research virologist, presenting at such forums provides me with a platform to introduce my research, but also presents the opportunity to initiate discussions with other researchers, and exchange ideas that can help improve my future scientific approaches,” says Mogotsi. 

“Being awarded the Dr Lehlohonolo Mathengtheng Trophy is such a great honour, and it came at the right time when I’m near completion of my PhD. It has really motivated me to work even harder and make sure I obtain this qualification. However, this would not have been possible without the guidance and support from my supervisor, Prof Nyaga. I want to thank him for giving me the opportunity to conduct this research project under his supervision. The continued support and encouragement from my colleagues in the UFS-Next Generation Sequencing Unit is also highly appreciated,” he concludes.

Mogotsi is finalising the write-up of his PhD thesis which he will be submitting in November 2023 for examination and is also preparing manuscripts for submission in high-impact internationally recognised peer-review journals. 

Other winners:

  • John van der Riet Medal Winners

Robyn Smith, Veronica Ntsiea, Stephen Brown, and Joanne Potterton, Department of Physiotherapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, UFS.

Pre-operative neurodevelopmental assessment in young children undergoing cardiac surgery in central South Africa: feasibility and clinical value.

  • Muller Potgieter Medal Winners

Johannes van den Heever, Christiaan Jordaan, Angelique Lewies, Dreyer Bester, Jacqueline Goedhals, Lezelle Botes, Pascall Dohmen, and Francis Smit, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, School of Clinical Medicine, UFS.

Comparison of the function and structural integrity of cryopreserved pulmonary homografts versus decellularised pulmonary homografts after 180 days implantation in the juvenile ovine model.

  • Kerneels Nel Medal Winners 

Lizemari Hugo-Van Dyk, Champion Nyoni, Margaret Williams, and Benjamin Botha, School of Nursing, UFS.

Preceptor support during the COVID-19 pandemic: Recommendations for continuing development.

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