The adventures of Marinda Oosthuizen and Nicola Collins in the USA

Posted on September 04, 2019

Prof Marinda Oosthuizen and I were invited to attend the 30th Meeting of the American Society for Rickettsiology in Sante Fe, New Mexico, from 8-11 June 2019.  Prof Kelly Brayton, our collaborator and an extraordinary professor in the DVTD, was the chair of the conference organising committee.  There were just over 200 conference participants, and the talks ranged from presentations on vectors (ticks, fleas and lice) to microbiome studies, vaccinology, diagnosis and host-vector-pathogen interactions. Dr Kathy Kocan gave a very detailed historical lecture about the life and times of Sir Arnold Theiler, which was most interesting.  There were two poster sessions with a range of interesting work presented.  Kelly presented a talk entitled “Confirmation of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in South Africa by multilocus sequencing”, based on research emanating from Agatha Kolo’s PhD study.  Marinda presented some more of Agatha’s PhD work in the form of a poster entitled “Detection of zoonotic bacterial pathogens in various hosts in the Mnisi community, Mpumalanga, South Africa using a microbiome sequencing approach”. I presented a poster entitled “Anaplasma marginale outer membrane protein vaccine candidates are conserved in North American and South African strains”, based on Paidashe Hove’s PhD results.

Eldorado Hotel Marinda and Kelly

The Eldorado Hotel, where the 30th Meeting of the American Society for Rickettsiology was held.  Note the adobe style architecture typical of buildings in Santa Fe.

Kelly and Marinda at one of our posters.

Santa Fe is a fascinating city, with the majority of the buildings made to look like the Native American adobe dwellings characteristic of the area.  A conference tour to Taos Pueblo gave the conference participants the opportunity to see some authentic Native American adobe dwellings that have been inhabited for over a thousand years.

After the conference, Marinda and I visited Kelly’s laboratory, at the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, Washington State University, in the little town of Pullman.  Marinda and I have been collaborating with Kelly for several years now and Kelly has been making annual visits to the DVTD since 2015.  Marinda has recently been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) International Research in Infectious Diseases grant (R01) which we will be working on jointly with Kelly for the next five years, so it was informative for us to see the facilities at WSU, and to discuss some detailed plans for the project. For several years now, we have been discussing the potential to apply for a joint NIH International Research Training Grant between our institutions. During our visit, we figured out some of the details that will be needed to apply for the first phase of this process, a D71 International Research Training Planning Grant. We met the students and staff of Kelly’s laboratory as well as some of the Faculty who were interested in being involved in the training grant. We also met with the staff at the sequencing core facility at WSU and they showed us around their facility and offered advice on our upcoming sequencing projects.

Bustad Hall

Bustad Hall on WSU’s Pullman Campus, where Kelly’s laboratory is situated.

Members of Kellys Lab Kelly and Marinda with poster

Some of the members of Kelly’s lab.

Working with Kelly!

Kelly and Derek Sequel II

Kelly at the WSU sequencing core facility with Derek Pouchnik and their new PacBio Sequel II system.  The new sequencer can generate up to eight times more data than the original Sequel System and provides access to even more highly accurate long reads.

Pullman is located in the Palouse, an area characterised by rolling green hills.  It was once an extensive prairie composed of mid-length perennial grasses, but today virtually all of the Palouse is planted in agricultural crops, including canola, wheat and legumes. 


The rolling green hills of the Palouse.

All-in-all it was a very successful trip, despite some travel hassles (two cancelled flights, one flight that was delayed three times and two damaged suitcases...), and Marinda and I returned to South Africa with new inspiration!

- Author Nicola Collins, Senior Researcher, DVTD
Published by Linda Poggenpoel

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