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Our Research Mission


The objectives of the Hepatitis Virus Diversity Research Unit fit in with the Wits strategic plan. The priority of this plan is to develop the University's reputation as a research-driven institution by:

  • Participating in cutting edge research and the generation of indigenous knowledge
  • Providing quality training to postgraduate students in order to ensure the development of active and motivated researchers.

Our research focus allows for training of postgraduate level students and researchers in the field of molecular biology and provides a much needed focus for the development of excellence in ideas and capacity. Molecular biology has been identified as a scarce skill by the National Research Foundation of South Africa. The research programme falls under the newly established Molecular Biosciences Research Thrust.

It is important that research on hepatitis viruses per se is supported and promoted in South Africa for a number of reasons:

  • Although there is a successful vaccine against hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, 1% of the world's chronic carriers reside in southern Africa.
  • Following the introduction of vaccination against HBV in South Africa the incidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is increasing.
  • The strains of both HBV and HCV found in southern Africa are unique and results generated from other regions of the world cannot be extrapolated to South Africa.
  • The introduction of highly active anti-retroviral treatment (HAART) can lead to the promotion of resistant viral strains, to reactivation of disease and hepatoxicity. Therefore, it is important that the hepatitis virus strains in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals are studied.
  • In order to combat both the viral infections and the end result of these infections, that is, liver cancer, using antiviral and anti-tumour treatment modalities, respectively, one has to study both the viruses and the mechanisms of tumourigenesis in depth.