Professor Anton Stoltz, a top infectious diseases expert, who had dedicated his time to the fight against Covid-19, died on Wednesday evening from complications arising from surgery.
Stoltz was the Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases in Internal Medicine at the University of Pretoria (UP).
In a statement, UP said his death was a loss to the health sciences fraternity, both nationally and globally.
“We mourn the loss of this talented hero, who devoted his life to saving the lives of others,” UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said.
“Since February 2020, he had dedicated his time to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, despite facing personal setbacks in his own health.
“He yet again proved his dedication to bettering the lives of others, and will forever be remembered for his clinical excellence, his dedication to research, his unfaltering leadership and his unwavering love for his children and wife.”
According to UP, Stoltz, who was also a principal medical researcher for the Medical Research Council, started his career as a biochemist and researcher.
After completing his master’s degree in biochemistry, which focused on malaria, he was selected to go to Belgium as a researcher to pioneer a new field in tuberculosis (TB). He worked in the world-class laboratories of Professor Johan Grooten at Ghent University and Patric De Baetselier at the University of Brussels, Kupe said.
“The function of mycolic acids in the cell wall of mycobacterium TB was at that stage unknown. He was asked to start a new field in lipid biochemistry and to look at immunological properties of these long chain fatty acids. After two years, he published a paper on the innate immunity of mycolic acids.
“Papers that followed were on the use of biosensors to detect anti-mycolic acid antibodies and its use in a novel assay for tuberculosis.”
He was also involved in a major breakthrough in collaborative research with the University of Leicester in revolutionising the way TB is detected, through the invention and application of a 3D-printed insert added to simple face masks.
This new approach has the potential to detect millions of currently missed infections across the world, Kupe said.