The 49th Annual PARSA Conference
The first ever ‘virtual’ Parasitological Society of Southern Africa (PARSA) Conference was held on the 14th, 15th and 16th September 2021. This was the Society’s 49th annual conference, which was postponed from 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions which made it impossible to have a physical meeting. Initially, the conference was planned for two days, but due to the large number of abstracts received, it was extended by a day. The conference was subsidized by PARSA, and as a result the registration was free for all members.
There were 109 registrations representing eight countries including South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, Spain, Czech Republic, Australia, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Fifty presentations, including 42 orals and 7 posters, were delivered by postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The session themes covered parasites in freshwater and marine aquatic systems, parasites of mammals, and pathogen control. For each session, pre-recorded talks were played at the appropriate time, followed by a question and answer session. DVTD PhD students, Marcus Makgabo and Sunday Oloagun presented talks entitled, respectively, “Temporal dynamics of Anaplasma marginale infections in calves in the Mnisi communal area, Mpumalanga, South Africa” and “Clinico-haematological and biochemical features of natural babesiosis in Nigerian breeds of cattle”, which were well received. The keynote speaker was Prof Patricia Conrad from the University of California Davis, USA. She is a veterinarian and distinguished professor of parasitology, whose research is on the transmission of protozoal parasites between wildlife, humans and domestic animals. Prof Conrad shared her 40-year journey as a research protozoologist and scientist in a talk entitled “A journey full of amazing parasites and One-health lessons learned”.
This conference debuted the first ever student event at a PARSA conference, which was held online on the evening of the first day. It was an open mic and mentoring session for all PARSA-registered postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows from various parasitological research fields. The guest speaker for the event was Dr. Sarah Poynton, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Dr Poynton has broad expertise in animal parasitology, with a research focus on: (i) pathogenic parasites of aquatic animals, particularly those in captivity (ranging from aquaculture to aquaria), and (ii) the diplomonad flagellates, Spironucleus and Giardia, significant pathogens of animals and humans.
Seven members of the Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases attended the conference, Marcus Makgabo, Sunday Oloagun, Kgomotso Sibeko-Matjila, Raksha Bhoora, Chris Marufu, Dina Fagir, and Banie Penzhorn. Drs Raksha Bhoora and Dina Fagir assisted with the adjudication of the Veteran and Senior oral and poster presentations, for the PARSA Conference Presentation awards. The presentation awards for best oral and poster, in ‘First-time’, ‘Senior’ and ‘Veteran’ categories, were announced at the Annual General Meeting on the last day of the conference.
Although far from normal, it was a successful congress. We hope for a return to the normal format in future years, once the COVID-19 situation is resolved. The 4th International Congress on Parasites of Wildlife (ICPOW) and 50th PARSA Conference will be held from the 4th to the 8th of September 2022, at the Kruger National Park.
- Author Marcus Makgabo, Nicola Collins, Kgomotso Sibeko-Matjila, Raksha Bhoora, Chris Marufu, Dina Fagir, Sunday Oloagun and Banie Penzhorn