School of Life Sciences

Study Investigates Antimicrobial Resistance in Durban’s Pigeons and Houseflies

Having obtained his undergraduate and honours degrees at UKZN, Mr Trevor Wilson now has an MSc in Genetics cum laude under his belt.

‘I learnt a great deal during the course of my undergrad and honours and believed I could extend my knowledge through an MSc within this Institution,’ he said.

Wilson’s master’s research focused on identifying antimicrobial resistance and virulence genes within bacterial samples isolated from pigeons and houseflies found around the greater Durban area.

‘Flies are common vectors for human diseases,’ he explained. ‘Moreover, the pigeon flocks that samples were collected from could be seen flying in and out of Addington Hospital buildings, possibly picking up contaminants from within the hospital.

‘If these hosts picked up any bacteria, the extent of their antibiotic resistance would provide greater knowledge of the levels of bacterial resistance present in hospitals in the area.’

Wilson noted that his supervisor, Professor Oliver Zishiri, had been involved in many studies regarding antibiotic resistance over the years.  ‘After going through some of his previous papers, I found the topic very interesting. It’s importance and potential benefit to public health motivated me to investigate further.

His research results confirmed the presence of antibiotic resistance within positive bacterial isolates at levels either equal to or greater than those found in previous studies.

‘This raises some concern over the rising levels of antibiotic resistance and the decreasing effective treatment plans for bacterial infections. I hope my research provides valuable information regarding which antibiotics will be better suited to certain bacterial infections and highlights the risks of antibiotic misuse.’

Wilson is currently enrolled for a PhD at UKZN. ‘I am hoping that once my PhD is complete, I can begin my career. I would like to get a few years of laboratory work in before hopefully moving over to lecturing.’

He thanked his parents for making him the person he is today, his supervisor for his support and guidance, colleagues and academics within UKZN’s genetics department, as well as his girlfriend for being with him every step of the way.

When not in the lab, Wilson enjoys a unique hobby – he is a side drummer in the Durban Caledonian Society Pipe Band, which he joined at the age of 11.

‘The band has taken me many places over the years, including to Scotland to compete in the World Pipe Band Championships in 2014, when I was only 14 years old,’ he said. ‘I have also taken part in the South African Solo Drumming Championships every year since 2014, except for one year.’

Wilson also plays the ukulele, guitar and keyboard, and was a Springbok Scout. His other hobbies include woodwork, hiking and generally being outdoors.

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal