Division of Immunology
The Division of Immunology is housed within the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Cape Town. It was formerly known as the Department of Clinical Science and Immunology and has formed an active part of Laboratory-based immunology research and diagnostics since the early 1970ís. Today, the Division of Immunology is involved with a range of activities from identifying the basic mechanisms of infectious disease immunity to diagnostic testing in the National Health Laboratory Services labs at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Research: The Division houses the UCT/MRC Unit on Immunology of Infectious Diseases and an Allergy Section. The Division generates and characterise novel and worldwide unique transgenic mice, as animal models for human diseases, also applicable to non-communicable diseases. These have been used to make important advances in diseases, such as Tuberculosis, Bilharzia, African Trypanosomiasis, Candidiasis and cutaneous Leishmaniasis and contributed to a better understanding of immunological mechanisms on a cellular and molecular level. Basic research in the Allergy Section has focused on the T cell cytokine responses to allergens as well as the application of novel assays to identify sensitivity profiles. There are very close ties with the South African component of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, providing a very strong genomics thrust to the Division.
There is also a strong clinical immunology emphasis in the Division, specifically in HIV and TB immunology where studies are underway to understand adaptive and innate immune responses during acute HIV infection and in infants exposed to HIV in utero and upon receiving BCG vaccination. The Division is moving towards integrating basic murine models with clinical observations to form an Integrated Centre of Immunology (ICI) that would form a hub of collaborative activities within UCT and beyond.
Service: Within the NHLS, the Laboratory for Tissue Immunology is responsible for HLA class I and class II typing for solid organ and bone marrow/stem cell matching. It is the only HLA lab in South Africa to have European Federation of Immunogenetics (EFI) accreditation. The Laboratory also performs cross-matching and pre-formed antibody testing for renal transplantation. The Allergy and Clinical Immunology Laboratory performs routine diagnostic testing for autoantibodies and different allergies.
Teaching: The Division has an active teaching component in the medical undergraduate syllabus. Immunology concepts and principals are imparted through case studies and the problem based learning approach by the Faculty. More advanced course are offered at the post-graduate level through the Honours in Infectious Disease and Immunology programme and Advanced Immunology.