Anova researcher successfully defends his PhD thesis on STIs in South African women

Dr Jan Henk Dubbink successfully defended* his PhD thesis at the Maastricht University in Maastricht, The Netherlands in December. Following this defence, his PhD degree was handed to him by Prof Remco Peters, clinical programme specialist at Anova.

His thesis entitled Sexually transmitted infections in rural South Africa: Towards better control strategies  reflects collaborative research between the Anova Health Institute, University of Pretoria, VU University Medical Center and the Maastricht University. The thesis captures research conducted in Mopani District, Limpopo Province, South Africa, on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in women of reproductive age.

Data presented demonstrate a very high prevalence of the most common and curable STIs: Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Mycoplasma genitalium, and Trichomonas vaginalis. Microbiological factors were also investigated, such as the role of bacterial load, concurrency of infections, and their molecular relatedness through sequence typing. Recommendations for improved STI control were made based on identification of targets for prevention and optimisation of syndromic management guidelines.

Prof Remco Peters, the Clinical Programme Specialist at Anova, says: “"STIs provide a serious, but largely neglected, health burden in Africa. This thesis is one of the first to demonstrate the magnitude of the burden of infection in African women, to characterise the most important aspects of the epidemic, and to provide practical recommendations to improve STI care in South Africa."

Research on this topic is ongoing at Anova and current projects build on the gained experience.


* a defence presents evidence for a thesis. What kind of evidence is appropriate depends on what kind of thesis is being defended. Once students submit their theses papers to the thesis committee, they will be assigned a date to defend their work. In this case, “defend” does not imply that a student will have to argue aggressively about his or her work. Rather, the thesis defense is designed so that faculty members can ask questions and make sure that students actually understand their field and focus area.

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