As part of research collaboration with the University of Pretoria’s Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Storme has journeyed up to the Onderstepoort campus to learn some diagnostic skills and screen the Karoo predators for blood parasites.
Onderstepoort is home to South Africa’s one and only Faculty of Veterinary Science, and is where an incredible amount to teaching and research happens! Storme was graciously hosted within the Paraclinical Sciences Building, where the staff and students are an interesting mix of veterinarians, technologists and molecular biologists. A big THUMBS UP for interdisciplinary research, just like we like it at the Karoo Predator Project!
Using a technique known as reverse line blot hybridization, we can test for up to 43 pathogens at once while screening dozens of samples at a time. Interestingly, the test developed at Onderstepoort focusses on blood parasites which are commonly found in livestock and domestic animals, but can also detect similar types of parasites in wildlife. This fits perfectly with our thinking that the jackals and caracals in Karoo farmlands may be sharing parasites with livestock.
The results of the tests run have yielded more questions than answers (the usual story when working in science….). For the parasites we looked at, the jackals seem to have low levels of infection, compared to the caracals, and both species have fewer pathogens than one would expect in most livestock animals. However, there are a few findings that require further investigation. The next step is to do some DNA sequencing of the parasites we found, to see exactly what they are – or if we’ve found anything new!
Storme was also lucky enough to be at Onderstepoort in time for the 6th Annual Wildlife Research Symposium which was hosted by the Faculty of Veterinary Science, in partnership with the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa.
Thanks to the University of Pretoria’s Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases for being lovely hosts, and special thanks to Prof. Banie Penzhorn and his colleagues for supporting our research!