Sam van Zwieten

Masters student

A comparative study of the seasonal and land-use variation of avian malaria in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng

(Dr Sandi Willows-Munro from UKZN and co-supervised by Prof. Bettine van Vuuren)

Avian malaria is a collective term for a group of Haemosporidian parasites of the genera Plasmodium, Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon. These parasites infect approximately 68% of bird species worldwide; however, very little research on avian malaria has been conducted within South Africa and little is known about the local dynamics that play a role in the prevalence of this disease.

Sam is using a genetic approach to screen the avifauna of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal for avian malaria. Screening samples collected from a variety of habitat types and on a temporal scale can provide insight into seasonal variations in the prevalence and the dynamics responsible for these fluctuations.