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Novel study raises hope for eradicating gonorrhoea Novel study raises hope for eradicating gonorrhoea
Dr Deshanta Naicker (29) said she was thrilled to obtain her PhD in Medicine, which resulted from new South African research she undertook at... Novel study raises hope for eradicating gonorrhoea

Dr Deshanta Naicker (29) said she was thrilled to obtain her PhD in Medicine, which resulted from new South African research she undertook at the University of Kwazulu-Natal on combating the bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) gonorrhoea.

Her study investigated a “reverse vaccinology” approach and alternative therapeutics to combat gonorrhoea. It also evaluated cost-effective assays that target proteins or other molecules, such as the opa gene, created by enzymes in the bacteria. This leads to the growth and spread of diseases such as gonorrhoea.

The data generated in Naicker’s novel pilot study forms the foundation for future research, which will focus on expanding on a larger scale to validate the results and, hopefully, one day, make an impact in the STI world for gonorrhoea.

‘I was drawn to the field of STIs due to the pressing need for advancements in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment within this area of healthcare. STIs represent a significant public health challenge worldwide, with profound implications for individual well-being and community health. By focusing my research efforts on this domain, I saw an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the development of innovative interventions that could alleviate the burden of STIs and improve overall sexual health outcomes,’ Naicker explained.

She said there was stigma and misconceptions surrounding STIs, and her call was to advocate for greater awareness, education, and de-stigmatisation.

‘This field allows me to combine my passion for medical research with a commitment to promoting sexual health equity and reducing disparities in access to care and resources.’

‘I am particularly drawn to the prospect of working for a clinical trials/pharmaceutical company, where I believe I can contribute to developing innovative vaccines, treatment regimens, and diagnostic tools. My passion lies in leveraging scientific research to improve patient outcomes and advance medical knowledge. I am eager to embark on this next chapter of my career, fuelled by a deep sense of purpose and determination to make a meaningful difference in the health world.’

Naicker persevered despite the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting her research strategies, seeking alternative solutions, and learning through trial and error. She was fortunate to use virtual platforms to collaborate with colleagues and attend conferences, lightening the impact of physical restrictions on her academic pursuits.

Naicker was born and raised in Redhill, Durban. During her PhD journey, she participated in various local and international conferences such as the SciTech Immuno-Microbiology, Women and Nursing 2023 in Mauritius, where she won the Best Poster Presentation and served as a conference moderator. She also presented virtually at the 45th Global Congress on Infectious Diseases in November 2023 and at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences Research Symposium in Durban in August 2023. She was also featured in the Durban North News for International Women in Science Day in March 2023.

‘From a young age, I harboured a profound desire to impact the medical field positively. This aspiration was largely inspired by a deeply personal experience: witnessing my mother’s health struggles and the unwavering dedication of the doctors and medical staff who tirelessly worked to save her life. Their commitment to providing compassionate care and their relentless pursuit of excellence left an indelible mark on me, igniting a passion to follow in their footsteps and contribute to advancing healthcare,’ she said.

Naicker’s motto is: ‘Everything in life happens for a reason. Trust the journey.’ She finds solace and rejuvenation in practising yoga, connecting the mind, body, and spirit in moments of peaceful reflection.

News desk

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