Anna Kathleen Coussens
Infectious Disease Immunology
Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine
Rm N2.09.2 Wernher and Beit Building
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Cape Town
Anzio Rd, Observatory
Western Cape, 7925, South Africa
Anna received her BSc(Hons) majoring in genetics and biological anthropology, from University of Adelaide, Australia, in 2002. She received her PhD from Queensland University of Technology, Australia, in 2007, where she investigated the genetic factors of human facial variation and the molecular mechanisms of human skull development. Her research involved obtaining clinical material from children with the craniofacial abnormality craniosynostosis to identify tissue-specific gene expression profiles indicative of prematurely fusing bone, the process which underlies this developmental abnormality. This work resulted in an international patent for the treatment and diagnosis of bone pathologies.
After submitting her PhD, Anna volunteered in Uganda conducting health surveys in remote communities. This experience confirmed her desire to work on issues of global health and instigated a move to the MRC National Institute for Medical Research in London, UK, to train as an infectious disease immunologist and begin working on tuberculosis (TB). There her research focused on how vitamin D modulates the immune response during Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) infection and how vitamin D supplementation during TB treatment enhances treatment response.
In 2012 Anna moved to University of Cape Town, to develop a career in TB-HIV immunology as South Africa has the world’s highest rate of TB-HIV co-infection, with HIV-1 infection being the greatest risk factor for TB. Anna is currently investigating the effect of seasonal vitamin D deficiency in Cape Town on susceptibility to HIV-1 infection and is embarking on a new study to investigate at the interaction between three risk factors for TB which are highly prevalent in South Africa: vitamin D deficiency, diabetes and HIV-1 infection. Her aim is to have an impact on policy decisions regarding recommended prevention and treatment strategies for TB and HIV.