UCT students shine at conferences

07 December 2009

Three PhD Medical Virology studentsThree PhD students at UCT's Division of Medical Virology have scooped awards in a variety of international and continental conferences recently.

Lenine Liebenberg (right in picture) was judged the best student for her performance at the 3rd African Flow Cytometry Workshop in Johannesburg, winning an all-expenses-paid trip to Mykonos in Greece to attend the Measuring Antigen-Specific Immune Responses conference in June 2010.

Zizipho Mbulawa and Lindi Roberts (middle and left in picture) each won a bronze medal for their poster and oral presentations, respectively, at the International Union against Sexually Transmitted Infections conference in Cape Town.

Dr Jo-Ann Passmore, senior lecturer in the division, said that the three students are doing "exceptionally well" in their studies, and these awards acknowledge this.

Liebenberg said the workshop was intense but stimulating, and the best part was to meet doctors Guido Ferrari, Mike Betts, Steve Perfetto and Clive Gray, "my mentors, who laid the foundation for my projects".

Before the workshop she attended the 2009 Symposium on Infectious Diseases in Africa, where she exhibited her flow cytometry-based work on the role of genital tract immunity in the prevention and control of HIV infection. Her work focuses on quantifying and comparing immune activation in the blood and genital tracts of HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected women.

Mbulawa won the third award in her promising career when she came second in the poster category for her work, HIV Infection in Women Influences the Low-Risk (LR) HPV Prevalence in their Male Partners but not the High-Risk (HR) HPV Prevalence.

Roberts received her medal for her research on the impact of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and genital tract inflammation on the risk of HIV acquisition in high-risk HIV-uninfected women in South Africa. The study demonstrated that STIs are associated with inflammation in the genital tract, and that this inflammation is associated with greater risk of HIV infection.

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