Professor Theresa Coetzer’s research focusses on proteolytic enzymes as diagnostic and drug targets in African parasitic diseases: mainly animal and human trypanosomiasis (nagana and sleeping sickness) and also trichinellosis and theileriosis.
She also has expertise in producing antibodies in chickens against the whole proteases and against peptides corresponding to epitopes identified in silico. Chicken egg yolk antibodies (IgY) are powerful immunochemical tools that find wide application in research and she has established a number of collaborations around this capacity.
She holds a DST-NRF South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Proteolysis in Haemostasis, Health and Disease.
My research interest is in proteolytic enzymes of African trypanosomes. African trypanosomiasis is a parasitic disease caused by haemoflagellate protozoa of the genus Trypanosoma that is spread by the bite of the tsetse fly. The human form of the disease, called sleeping sickness, is caused by T. brucei gambiense in eastern and central Africa and by T. brucei rhodesiense in eastern Africa. Livestock, notably cattle and goats, are susceptible to T. congolense and T. vivax that causes nagana and the disease also occurs in northern KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique. Wildlife do not show any symptoms, but act as reservoirs of the parasite, hence the large scale killing of animals in the 1920s to protect cattle in the area that now constitutes Hluluwe-iMfolozi.