Current Research



In 2013 the Discipline of Occupational and Environmental Health embarked on a birth cohort study, titled the Mother and Child in the Environment (MACE). The study was initiated to address research gaps in understanding the relationship between environmental exposures and pregnancy and birth outcomes.

Pregnancy and birth cohort studies provide one of the most powerful research methods for medical and social research. Data collected about the growth and development of children, from in utero through to early childhood can be used to determine which biological and environmental factors can be associated with the health and optimal development of the foetus, infant and child.

This longitudinal birth cohort study aims to examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of a cohort of women attending ante-natal clinics in the South Durban Basin, compared to a cohort of women from the less industrially polluted community north of the city. Priority outcomes will be indicators of respiratory development, as well as adverse respiratory outcomes. Risk factors to be investigated will include ambient and indoor pollution, dietary impacts, particularly reduced intake of antioxidants, genetic polymorphisms, epigenetic changes and adverse birth outcomes.

Additionally, the proposed investigation will address the hypothesis that asthma risk may be influenced by environmentally induced epigenetic changes. This is cutting edge research which is gaining momentum in the USA and UK, but still in its infancy in Africa.

We will determine if factors, such as environmental pollution, nutrition and genetic polymorphisms may interact to result in adverse outcomes such as low birth weight, intra-uterine growth retardation and premature births, in a population of pregnant females from communities with high levels of industrial environmental pollution, compared to pregnant females without such exposures, but with similar socio-economic status. Children will be followed up from before birth to six years of age.

The MACE study has the advantage of repeated measures of specific environmental exposures, collection of biological specimens over time, and comprehensive clinical outcomes assessment. This will contribute to a wealth of information on specific environmental triggers and critical time windows of susceptibility. Additionally, an African population will, for the first time, be evaluated in a study of environmental epigenomics.

For queries or further information please contact:

Mrs Karesham Asharam
Project Manager

/ 031 260 4523

 MACE Fieldworkers  MACE Researchers in Biochemistry
 MACE Study Area – South Durban Industrial Basin  MACE Study Principal Investigator – Prof Rajen Naidoo
MACE Project Manager – Mrs Kareshma Asharam

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