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14 June 2018 Photo Supplied
Next Chapter Green Ribbon campaign addresses mental health
Members of Next Chapter and UFS Student counselling are working together to address mental health issues.

Next Chapter, a student support group at the UFS presented the Green Ribbon campaign, pledging their support to students and providing them with assistance in coping with life events that stimulate stress and contribute negatively to their mental health. The team aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health care, and continually assist students with mental health-related issues that they struggle with daily.

The Green Ribbon represents mental health awareness, which is a pressing matter for students and is the type of support students need in a stressful university environment. The campaign focuses on teaching students how to cope with life events that stimulate stress, and contribute negatively to their mental health.
 
A discussion by Dr Ancel George: practising clinical psychologist and lecturer from the UFS Department of Psychology, and Dr Mellissa Barnaschone: Director of UFS Student Counselling, took place, where talks were prominent about creating an inclusive environment for UFS students.

The panel shared a few tips on how students should work towards managing stress, and motivated them for the main mid-year examinations.
 
The follow-up Exam Cram Workshop, presented by Nadia Cloete and Lize Wolmarans, that combined time and stress management, took place on 2 June 2018, and saw students receiving advice on how to approach various issues during the examination period.
 
Mental health awareness does not end with the campaign and Next Chapter’s slogan “Your story continues” encourages students to regularly wear and commemorate the green ribbon in support of continual mental healthcare.
 
Should you have any enquiries or input for the ongoing campaign, contact the Next Chapter team on ufsnextchapter@gmail.com, or further email Tshepang Mahlatsi, founder of Next Chapter on tshepangmahlatsi767@gmail.com

News Archive

#Women'sMonth: Save the children
2017-08-10

Description: Trudi O'Neill Tags: : rotaviruses, young children, Dr Trudi O’Neill, Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, vaccine 

Dr Trudi O’Neill, Senior lecturer in the Department of
Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology.
Photo: Anja Aucamp

Dr Trudi O’Neill, Senior lecturer in the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, is conducting research on rotavirus vaccines.

Dr O’Neill was inspired to conduct research on this issue through her fascination with the virus. “The biology of rotaviruses, especially the genome structure and the virus’ interaction with the host, is fascinating.”

“In fact, it is estimated that, globally, ALL children will be infected with rotavirus before the age of five, irrespective of their socio-economic standing. However, infants and young children in poor countries are more vulnerable due to inadequate healthcare. The WHO estimates that approximately 215 000 deaths occur each year. This roughly equates to eight Airbus A380 planes, the largest commercial carrier with a capacity of approximately 500 seats, filled with only children under the age of five, crashing each week of every year.”

Alternative to expensive medicines 
“Currently, there are two vaccines that have been licensed for global use. However, these vaccines are expensive and poor countries, where the need is the greatest, are struggling to introduce them sustainably. It is therefore appealing to study rotaviruses, as it is scientifically challenging, but could at the same time have an impact on child health,” Dr O’Neill said.

The main focus of Dr O’Neill’s research is to develop a more affordable vaccine that can promote child vaccination in countries/areas that cannot afford the current vaccines.

All about a different approach 

When asked about the most profound finding of her research, Dr O’Neill responded: “It is not so much a finding, but rather the approach. My rotavirus research group is making use of yeast as vehicle to produce a sub-unit vaccine. These microbes are attractive, as they are relatively easy to manipulate and cheap to cultivate. Downstream production costs can therefore be reduced. The system we use was developed by my colleagues, Profs Koos Albertyn and Martie Smit, and allows for the potential use of any yeast. This enables us to screen a vast number of yeasts in order to identify the best yeast producer.”

Vaccination recently acquired a bad name in the media for its adverse side effects. As researcher, Dr O’Neill has this to say: “Vaccines save lives. By vaccinating your child, you don’t just protect your own child from a potentially deadly infection, but also other children in your community that might be too young to be vaccinated or have pre-existing health problems that prevents vaccination.” 

A future without rotavirus vaccination?

Dr O’Neill believes a future without rotavirus vaccination will be a major step backwards, as the impact of rotavirus vaccines has been profound. “Studies in Mexico and Malawi actually show a reduction in deaths. A colleague in Mozambique has commented on the empty hospital beds that amazed both clinicians and scientists only one year after the introduction of the vaccine in that country. Although many parents, mostly in developed countries, don’t have to fear dehydrating diarrhoea and potential hospitalisation of their babies due to rotavirus infection anymore, such an infection could still be a death sentence in countries that have not been able to introduce the vaccine in their national vaccination programmes,” she said. 

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