‘Prediabetes is the intermediate stage between normoglycaemia (when there is normal concentration of sugar in the blood) and type 2 diabetes (the long-term medical condition in which the body does not use insulin properly, resulting in unusual blood sugar levels).’
This was explained by UKZN’s Human Physiology PhD candidate, Ms Nomusa Mzimela, who recently presented her research findings at the 56th Society for Endocrinology Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA) Congress in Johannesburg.
Mzimela said prediabetes generally develops from living an inactive lifestyle and from the chronic consumption of unhealthy foods. She noted that Durban has one of the fastest-growing rates of prediabetes prevalence on the continent, especially in people between the ages of 25 and 45, but there is a lack of context-specific investigation into how this condition develops and affects the people in this city. She said the insulin resistance that arises leads to abnormalities such as hyperglycaemia and hyperlipidaemia, which trigger the immune response and inflammation.
Supervised by the Physiology Discipline’s Professor Andile Khathi, Mzimela’s study investigated the inflammatory status of proteins TNF-a, IL-6, CRP, soluble CD40L, P-selectin and fibrinogen, confirming that there is immune activation and sub-clinical inflammation in prediabetic patients from Durban, with a new unexpected report of the effect of gender on immunity and inflammation.
Mzimela said: ‘Since prediabetes is asymptomatic, we recommend improved and increased testing of the condition as it impacts general health and the progression of other diseases.’ Mzimela said it was an honour to present her research to captains of industry at the congress. She also presented her master’s research at the inaugural Conference of Biomedical and Natural Sciences and Therapeutics (CoBNEST) in 2018 in Cape Town.
‘The congress in Johannesburg explored clinical and laboratory research based on diabetes, endocrinology, metabolism, lipid metabolism and atherosclerosis. It was also a space where medical specialists and researchers engaged with each other and explored collaboration to find solutions to challenges faced in healthcare,’ she said.
Mzimela said becoming a researcher has always been at the top of her to-do list. ‘I aspire to become a lecturer or a scientist, as long as it involves research and exploring the interchanging world of medical science.’ She said given the opportunity, she would definitely pursue postdoctoral research – allowing her to interact meaningfully with the world through scientific research and publications.
Mzimela holds a BSc in Physiology and Biochemistry from UNISA, a BSc Honours in the Medical Sciences from UKZN, as well as a Master of Medical Sciences in Human Physiology, also from UKZN.
She enjoys reading books, cooking and baking.
Words: Lunga Memela