Dr Helen Mulol works at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Research Centre for Maternal, Fetal, Newborn and Child Health Care Strategies. She is the Principal Investigator and Study Coordinator of the UmbiBaby study, which is following up on the babies from the South African site of the UmbiflowTM international study. Sponsored by the World Health Organisation, this study used the innovative low-cost UmbiflowTM device to screen for in utero growth restriction due to placental insufficiency.
Dr Mulol obtained an MSc in Analytical Chemistry and a PhD in Paediatrics (2016) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). For her doctoral research, she conducted a longitudinal study of breastfeeding infants in the first year of life. Dr Mulol strongly advocates exclusive breastfeeding, having come to realise the powerful properties of breast milk through her research. Breast milk changes its composition according to a mother’s diet and to the infant’s age; it also has immune-boosting properties. This is vastly different to baby formula found on supermarket shelves which does not change in any way.
She utilised an objective method during her research to determine how much breast milk mothers were giving their infants at five time points in the first year of life and whether they were exclusively breastfeeding in the first six months of life. The samples generated from these studies are measured using an analytical chemistry method.
Dr Mulol received a scholarship from the International Atomic Energy Agency for her PhD studies. The agency, which is part of the United Nations and based in Vienna, Austria, promotes the use of stable isotopes in fields such as nutrition.
After completing her PhD, Dr Mulol became involved at UKZN in coordinating another longitudinal study. This study investigated the likelihood of HIV-exposed, uninfected infants needing a daily dose of CTX, an antibiotic, by looking primarily at the health outcomes of those who received the antibiotic and those who didn’t.