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Dr Vesla Kullaya (2023)

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Employing institution: Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute

Host institution: University College London, Faculty of Medical Sciences, UK

Project title:

Training on metagenomic technique and computational analysis of omics data to characterise the interaction between the gut microbiome and the host inflammatory responses in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis in Tanzania 

Dr Vesla Kullaya holds a PhD in Immunology from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands with a NUFFIC scholarship.  Currently, she works as a senior laboratory scientist at the Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute in Tanzania, where she uses state-of-the-art multi-omics technologies to study changes in the composition, abundance and metabolic activities of the gut microbiota. She wants to understand how tuberculosis infection and anti-tuberculosis therapy impact inflammatory and metabolic pathways in African populations.  

AREF Fellowship:

98% of reported cases of tuberculosis (TB) worldwide are found in low- and middle-income nations, where the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has also risen. The long-term use of antibiotics during TB therapy can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome, resulting to functional consequences. 

Dr Kullaya will use a systems biology approach to determine how changes in the abundance and diversity of the gut microbiome due to TB infection and anti-TB treatment affect inflammatory pathways in humans in Africa. Her research will contribute to the discovery of reliable microbial biomarkers and novel targets for developing population-specific interventions, as well as cast light on the pathogenesis of inflammatory-related NCDs that develop after TB infection. 

Genomic and translational research involving African groups will advance our knowledge of disease mechanisms and direct the creation of effective population-specific interventions.

Vesla will join the division of Infection and Immunity at University College London’s, Faculty of Medical Sciences to be trained onmetagenomics and computational analysis of multi-omics data under the mentorship of Professor Timoth Mchugh. She will establish new partnerships at UCL, along with Dr. Dereck Sloan of the University of St. Andrews, who will mentor her through the clinical components of her research. Her genomics research will be supported and housed at her home institution (KCRI) once her fellowship is completed.