The Centre for Vaccines and Immunology has been established to provide laboratory and epidemiological support to three vaccination programmes within the Expanded Programme on Immunisation – polio, measles and hepatitis, as well as to carry out appropriate research to answer public health questions related to vaccines and vaccine- preventable diseases. In addition to the national and provincial Departments of Health, which are the major stakeholders, the Centre functions as regional reference laboratories for polio and measles for the World Health Organisation. A total of 17 projects are envisaged over the coming five year period to investigate pressing research questions concerning the utilisation of these vaccines as well as interrogating the mechanisms of immunity and tolerance to these and other pathogens.
The polio laboratory supports seven countries within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) for isolation of poliovirus from acute flaccid paralysis surveillance. Additonally, the lab performs confirmatory testing on samples tested from other World Health Organisation AFRO National labs, conducts parallel testing with countries that do not meet accreditation criteria to determine accuracy of results and provides assistance with routine testing to labs when requested. The laboratory also performs poliovirus serology against all three poliovirus serotypes.
The measles laboratory conducts serological testing on all samples from the rash-based surveillance programme and reports data monthly to department of health. The centre is critical in monitoring, preventing and alerting authorities to any measles outbreaks.
The NICD, in collaboration with the Corporate Data Warehouse (CDW), collates the demographic and laboratory data on serology, PCR and genotypes of hepatitis B and C, respectively from all national NHLS laboratories. This database surveillance provides numbers of positive HBV and HCV cases in the country, to assist with estimation of the national burden of disease.
Immunology and Tolerance laboratory
This flow cytometric laboratory conducts immunological investigations into correlates of immunity for diseases of public health importance. Activities include investigation of tolerogenic mechanisms in limiting or enhancing such immunity.