MAKHAOLA BAGS HER DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

Ms. Kgomotso Makhaola successfully defended her PhD thesis titled “MOLECULAR CHARACTERIZATION OF NOROVIRUSES AND SAPOVIRUSES IN BOTSWANA”.Indeed, patience is a virtue.In 2015, she started her part-time PhD in Biological Sciences in BIUST, where she worked on Noroviruses and Sapoviruses. Noroviruses and sapoviruses are the leading cause of acute viral gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) that affects people of all ages, but are more pronounced and often have severe outcomes in children, the elderly and the immunocompromised.
The overall goal of her study was to “understand the genetic diversity and distribution of human norovirus and sapovirus strains circulating in Botswana among children 5 years and under with
gastroenteritis”.

Results from this study showed that : 1) Noroviruses and sapoviruses contribute to the incidence of morbidity related to gastroenteritis among children 5 years and under in Botswana, with a
prevalence of 9.3% and 5.0% respectively; 2) Noroviruses and sapoviruses circulating in Botswana are genetically diverse, with Norovirus GII.4 Sydney 2012 variant dominating infections; 3) Norovirus GII.4 strains identified in Botswana are undergoing evolution through the mechanisms of antigenic drift and recombination within the ORF1/ORF2 junction and ORF1.This was the first study globally to describe norovirus GII.4 Sydney [P13] recombinant and the first report of near full genome sequences for norovirus GII.4 strains in Botswana. Additionally this was the first report of Sapovirus infections in Botswana.This work is a major contribution in public health response as understanding of pathogen genomics inform prevention measure including the development and or selection of candidate vaccines.

Dr Makhaola graduated from the University of Central Arkansas, Conway USA, in June 2000 with a BSc in Medical Technology after which she joined the Gaborone Institute of Health Sciences as an Assistant Lecturer in Clinical Chemistry. In 2003 she joined the Bamalete Lutheran Hospital as a Medical Laboratory Manager and later served as the Technical Supervisor at Botswana Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory from 2007 to 2014. In 2009 she won the prestigious Fulbright Foreign Scholar award, to pursue a Master of Science in Virology and Molecular Biology
at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, USA, which she completed in 2011. At the end of 2014 she joined the Center for Disease Control and Prevention- Botswana, where she is currently working as the Laboratory Technical Advisor.

Throughout her career she has contributed immensely to the Botswana HIV response program. Her research work includes TB/HIV and HPV. From her work she published 3 manuscripts in peer reviewed journals, 1 pending publication and the work managed to attract an invitation to contribute to a book Chapter. Lastly, some of this work was presented at the 6th International Calicivirus Conference, Savannah Georgia, USA in 2016. She is very passionate about learning and additionally, she holds a master’s degree in Project Management from the University of Botswana.

Botswana International University of Science & Technology