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27 March 2018 Photo Varsity Sports
Medals galore at second Varsity meeting Peter Makgato
Peter Makgato won the long jump title at the second Varsity athletics meeting in Pretoria with a winning jump of 7.56m.

The University of the Free State (UFS) had a successful second Varsity athletics meeting on Friday 23 March 2018 at the Tuks Athletics Stadium in Pretoria, dominating the long jump and middle distances. 

The 25 athletes achieved six gold and eight bronze medals. Although it’s just one more than what they earned at the first Varsity meeting at the beginning of the month, two more received gold. On 2 March 2018 the Free State students totalled four gold, six silver and three bronze medals. 

Although Yolandi Stander bagged a silver in the discus, it didn’t contribute to the Kovsies’ total. Stander competed for Tuks last year and the competition rules do not permit her to participate for another university in the following year.
 
Victories in middle distances and long jump
As was the case in the first meeting, the athletes running in the red colours of the Kovsies outsprinted the rest in the middle distances with three first places. Both Ruan Jonck (1:50.56) and Ts’epang Sello (2:10.42) defended their titles in the 800m for men and women respectively.

In the 1500m for women, Tyler Beling clocked a winning time of 04:33.48 with Lara Orrock following in third place (04:46.37). Both are just 18 years old. 

Both long-jump titles were decisive victories. Peter Makgato’s winning jump (7.56m) was 0.17m more than his closest competitor, and Maryke Brits (5.81m) won by 0.14m.

Three bronze medals were added in the field events; Nadia Meiring (47.10m) in the hammer throw) and Sefako Mokhosoa (15.29m, men) and Molebohang Pherane (11.67m, women) both in the triple jump. 

On the track Ané Erasmus (400m hurdles, 1:04.04), Hendrik Maartens (200m, 21.01) and Sokwakana Mogwasi (100m, 11.99) all ended in the third spot. 

The men’s varsity mixed medley relay won their race once again, and the men’s 4x100m relay finished third. 
The Kovsies ended fourth overall after the two meetings.

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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