Wendy Collinson

Protecting African wildlife

6 September 2018


TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher through research and its outputs by an individual Roadkill. For the motorist, this word may invoke the frustration of vehicle damage or a potentially dangerous incident; little more. It is something to be avoided, to look away from on a long journey. However, for our wildlife, the effects of humans and their vehicles are far-reaching and deadly. South Africa’s roads are a direct threat to the diversity of local flora and fauna, and there is a pressing need to find a solution that protects them.


Roadkill. For the motorist, this word may invoke the frustration of vehicle damage or a potentially dangerous incident; little more. It is something to be avoided, to look away from on a long journey. However, for our wildlife, the effects of humans and their vehicles are far-reaching and deadly. South Africa’s roads are a direct threat to the diversity of local flora and fauna, and there is a pressing need to
find a solution that protects them. For Wendy Collinson, a field worker with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, minimising the impact of roads and ehicles on wildlife has become her career. It is something she never anticipated when she took a break from her job as a teacher in the United and be activated by specific conditions at a later date.
“An important editorial followed in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, where Douglas Kell and me, together
with international experts, discussed the importance of looking at a bacterial link in neuro-inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease,” explains Pretorius. “We uncovered that the golden thread running through these diseases is inflammation and looked into how we can catch them early to prevent them from developing further.” More innovations followed whereby Pretorius – together with Professor Willie Perold, Professor Wim de Villiers, Professor Anna-Mart Engelbrecht and Kell – patented a nanobiosensor for the early detection of cancer. She and Perold also have a platelet function nanobiosensor patent. A single drop of blood can now indicate if inflammatory conditions
are stirring within a person’s bloodstream, long before it actually starts. Furthermore, disease progression may be monitored more easily and at a very low cost. “A disease develops because of various factors, including genetic predisposition, so our innovations may not cure the disease. However, they may prevent it from developing further, especially if we can catch it earlier than we are catching it today,” says Pretorius. Through the use of novel techniques, Pretorius’s research and unstoppable determination, and the evolution of understanding, it seems
that medicine may be on the cusp of removing these diseases forever. To date, Pretorius has filed six patents and her work has won her the 2011 African Union Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Award, as well as the department of science and technology’s 2017 Women in Science Runner-up Award. In addition, she has published articles in several journals and her researchhas featured in New Scientist. It’s in the blood Protecting African wildlife The results intrigued Pretorius. She discussed her findings with a research collaborator, Professor Douglas Kell from The University of Manchester.