Excellence in TB research rewarded
Dr Adrie Bekker, a neonatologist and TB researcher at Stellenbosch University, has been recognised for her innovative research, which has provided the first ever pharmacokinetic data to inform dosing guidelines for a specific antituberculosis drug in young infants.
Bekker was awarded the HD Brede Award for Tuberculosis Research 2015 at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (FMHS) Annual Academic Day.
She has been a consultant in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health since 2007 and enrolled for her PhD in 2013. Her research is focused on the prevention and treatment of perinatal and infant tuberculosis within the context of HIV, with a special interest in pharmacokinetic studies.
Bekker has already published three articles in scientific peer reviewed journals towards her PhD degree and presented her work at several international and national TB and neonatology conferences.
She was awarded the HD Brede prize for her article, entitled “Pharmacokinetics of isoniazid in low birth weight and premature infants”, which was published in the journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in 2014.
Bekker said she is very grateful to have received this prestigious TB award. “The purpose of my research is to reduce the incidence of perinatal and infant TB, through a variety of strategies.”
“Pharmacokinetic studies aid in providing an evidence base for the appropriate preventive and curative treatment of TB in the young. A sound knowledge of TB drug disposition and safety is essential to guide the appropriate dosage of TB drugs in infants,” she explained.
This was the first study to evaluate the key and most widely used antituberculosis drug in young children, namely isoniazid, in low-birth weight preterm infants. The study included intensive pharmacokinetic sampling, non-compartmental pharmacokinetic analyses and rigorous clinical evaluation.
“TB is a major source of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, especially in settings with high burden of TB and HIV,” said Prof Anneke Hesseling, her PhD study supervisor.
Hesseling noted that the research focus on translational clinical TB research affecting the most vulnerable population is in keeping with the spirit of the HD Brede award.
The research was made possible by an international Early Career Award from the Thrasher Research Foundation, as well as by funding received from the Harry Crossley Foundation.