Dr Nicola Collins

University of Pretoria
Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases

Research Project: Anaplasma species in South Africa


Dr Collins’ research career has mainly focused on molecular studies of haemoparasites of veterinary importance.  She was one of the principal researchers involved in the sequencing of the 1.5 Mb Ehrlichia ruminantium genome, which was published in January 2005 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; in 2005 this journal had an impact factor of 10.231. The E. ruminantium genome sequence was the first bacterial genome to be completed in Africa, and was a major achievement for all the researchers involved. It will be an invaluable resource in future heartwater research. 

She has also been involved in the development of molecular diagnostic tests for Theileria parvaTheileria equi and Babesia caballi and in the molecular characterization of these parasites.  Her research revealed the existence of genetic and serological heterogeneity in T. equi and B. caballi parasites in South Africa, which explains the failure of many molecular and serological tests to detect these parasites in field samples in this country. Other projects include the identification T. parva carrier cattle in the Mnisi Community Area and the characterization of T. parva parasites identified, as well as studying the time-course of tick-borne haemoparasite infection in calves at the wildlife-livestock interface in the Mnisi Community.

Her current research includes the molecular characterization of vaccine candidates from Anaplasma marginale strains in South Africa in collaboration with Dr Kelly Brayton (Washington State University, USA) and Dr Sibusiso Mtshali (NRF-National Zoological Gardens, Pretoria).  Recently, in vitro cultures of South African A. marginale strainshave been established in embryonic tick cell lines in collaboration with researchers at the ARC-OVI.  Dr Collins is also working in collaboration with Dr Marinda Oosthuizen on the characterization of A. marginale and A. centrale in cattle and buffalo, and the identification of zoonotic tick-borne pathogens.