Dr Benjamin Kumwenda



Dr Benjamin Kumwenda, University of Malawi, College of Medicine,
Transcriptomic analysis of multi-drug resistant Salmonella Typhimurium strains

Benjamin KumwendaI am a lecturer at the College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome Trust.  My research interests are in development of robust algorithms, comparative genomics and drug resistance of human pathogens.

My AREF Fellowship project focuses on a particular kind of Salmonella that causes some 380,000 deaths a year in Africa: it is termed iNTS serovar Typhimurium, short for invasive multidrug-resistant non-typhoidal Salmonella (iNTS) serovar Typhimurium.  It especially affects children and HIV-infected adults in Africa.

Phylogenetic characterization of Malawian multidrug-resistant iNTS bacterial strains has identified a pre-2002 cluster of strains (Lineage-1) and an epidemic post-2002 cluster (Lineage-2).  Recently, we have identified a third sub-cluster (Lineage-2A).

The idea is that these small genetic differences cause regulatory rewiring of the transcriptional network in Lineage-2A, and modulate expression of an important virulence factor.  Understanding these mechanisms can contribute eventually to combatting the spread of drug resistance in vulnerable populations.

During my AREF Fellowship, I will identify differentially expressed virulence genes by comparing the transcriptome of multidrug-resistant Lineage-2 and 2A strains under different, defined environmental conditions, as established at the Hinton lab at the University of Liverpool.

I also look forward to feeding back into my local institution by supporting research of fellow scientists and teaching others the new skills and techniques, which I will acquire through this fellowship.

I was born in Malawi and obtained a BSc in Computer Sciences from University of Malawi, Chancellor College in 2001. I graduated with a Masters Degree in Computer Sciences from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2008. In 2014, I was awarded a PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Pretoria.

The AREF fellowship will lay the basis for further work, to generate more data that will enable me to compete for a significant grant proposal in the future.