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Professor Anna-Lise Williamson PhD (Wits), FRSSAf, MASSAf, Fellow of UCT, Fellow of ISV

Viral Vaccine Development Group and Human Papillomavirus Research Group

Anna-lise Williamson

Chair in Vaccinology (NRF South African Research Chairs Initiative), Division of Medical Virology, Department of Pathology, & Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT; Member of SAMRC Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre.

Viral Vaccine Development

While the HIV prevalence in Southern Africa continues to increase, one long-term strategy for the control of the pandemic is the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine. The aim is to make prophylactic HIV/AIDS vaccines that will induce broad, polyfunctional CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses as well as a wide spectrum of long-lived memory T cells and antibody responses. Our most recent funding (SHIP, MRC) for candidate HIV vaccines supports the development of various novel Env vaccines including DNA and poxvirus vaccine vectors, as well as production in tissue culture and plants and establishment of a SHIV/rhesus monkey model for efficacy evaluation of these novel Env-based vaccine candidates. Current veterinary vaccine projects include a novel bovine ephemeral fever virus vaccine based on lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV).  We are also improving LSDV as a veterinary vaccine.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) projects

HPV is causally associated with cervical cancer one of the most important cancers in Africa. Our present research provides data to support HPV vaccine introduction in South Africa, as well as understanding the factors influencing infection and persistence of HPV. We continue to monitor HPV prevalence in various communities around South Africa to provide baseline data to eventually monitor the impact of HPV vaccination. As HIV and HPV are both the cause of major public health problems in SA, we have a specific interest in the impact of HIV infection on HPV. Novel insight has been gained into the impact of HIV co-infection on HPV transmission and natural history in couples. Our group were the first worldwide to study oral HPV antibodies and to demonstrate cervical T cell responses to HPV. Our research in microbicides and HPV infection detected a significant increase in multiple HPV infections in HIV-1 seronegative women using  nonoxynol-9, compared with HIV-1 seronegative women using placebo. We also published the first report showing a negative association of HPV infection with the vaginal microbicide Carraguard. We were one of the first groups to apply next generation sequencing technology to characterisation of HPV, and to show that there are many novel HPV viruses present in the genital tract. To date we have described ten novel HPV types. One of our other interests is the impact of the cervical microbiome on HPV infection.


Selected publications:

Volkmann A, Williamson AL, Weidenthaler H, Meyer TPH, Robertson JS, Excler JL, Condit RC, Evans E, Smith ER, Kim D, Chen RT, Brighton Collaboration Viral Vector Vaccines Safety Working Group VS: The Brighton Collaboration standardized template for collection of key information for risk/benefit assessment of a Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vaccine platform. Vaccine 2021, 39:3067-80.

Margolin E, Oh YJ, Verbeek M, Naude J, Ponndorf D, Meshcheriakova YA, Peyret H, van Diepen MT, Chapman R, Meyers AE, Lomonossoff GP, Matoba N, Williamson AL, Rybicki EP: Co-expression of human calreticulin significantly improves the production of HIV gp140 and other viral glycoproteins in plants. Plant Biotechnol J 2020.

Chapman R, van Diepen M, Galant S, Kruse E, Margolin E, Ximba P, Hermanus T, Moore P, Douglass N, Williamson AL, Rybicki E: Immunogenicity of HIV-1 Vaccines Expressing Chimeric Envelope Glycoproteins on the Surface of Pr55 Gag Virus-Like Particles. Vaccines (Basel) 2020, 8.

Munyanduki H, Douglass N, Offerman K, Carulei O, Williamson AL: Influence of the lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV) superoxide dismutase homologue on host transcriptional activity, apoptosis and histopathology. J Gen Virol 2020, 101:645-50.

Murahwa AT, Tshabalala M, Williamson AL: Recombination Between High-Risk Human Papillomaviruses and Non-Human Primate Papillomaviruses: Evidence of Ancient Host Switching Among Alphapapillomaviruses. J Mol Evol 2020, 88:453-62.

Onywera H, Williamson AL, Cozzuto L, Bonnin S, Mbulawa ZZA, Coetzee D, Ponomarenko J, Meiring TL: The penile microbiota of Black South African men: relationship with human papillomavirus and HIV infection. BMC Microbiol 2020, 20:78.

Taku O, Meiring TL, Gustavsson I, Phohlo K, Garcia-Jardon M, Mbulawa ZZA, Businge CB, Gyllensten U, Williamson AL: Acceptability of self- collection for human papillomavirus detection in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. PLoS One 2020, 15:e0241781.

Margolin E, Chapman R, Meyers AE, van Diepen MT, Ximba P, Hermanus T, Crowther C, Weber B, Morris L, Williamson AL, Rybicki EP: Production and Immunogenicity of Soluble Plant-Produced HIV-1 Subtype C Envelope gp140 Immunogens. Front Plant Sci 2019, 10:1378.

van Diepen MT, Chapman R, Douglass N, Galant S, Moore PL, Margolin E, Ximba P, Morris L, Rybicki EP, Williamson AL: Prime-Boost Immunizations with DNA, Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara, and Protein-Based Vaccines Elicit Robust HIV-1 Tier 2 Neutralizing Antibodies against the CAP256 Superinfecting Virus. J Virol 2019, 93.

Murahwa AT, Nindo F, Onywera H, Meiring TL, Martin DP, Williamson AL: Evolutionary dynamics of ten novel Gamma-PVs: insights from phylogenetic incongruence, recombination and phylodynamic analyses. BMC Genomics 2019, 20:368.
Williamson AL, Garland S, Palefsky J, Rybicki E, Stanley M, de Sanjose S: The Cape Town declaration on human papillomavirus related disease. Papillomavirus Res 2018, 5:59-60.

Dzhivhuho GA, Rehrl SA, Ndlovu H, Horsnell WGC, Brombacher F, Williamson AL, Chege GK: Chronic schistosomiasis suppresses HIV-specific responses to DNA-MVA and MVA-gp140 Env vaccine regimens despite antihelminthic treatment and increases helminth-associated pathology in a mouse model. PLoS Pathog 2018, 14:e1007182.

Carulei O, Douglass N, Williamson AL: Comparative analysis of avian poxvirus genomes, including a novel poxvirus from lesser flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor), highlights the lack of conservation of the central region. BMC Genomics 2017, 18:947.

Firnhaber C, Swarts A, Goeieman B, Rakhombe N, Mulongo M, Williamson AL, Michelow P, Ramotshela S, Faesen M, Levin S, Wilkin T: Cryotherapy Reduces Progression of Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia Grade 1 in South African HIV-Infected Women: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2017, 76:532-8

Contact details:

Room S3.01.1 Wernher & Beit South
Division of Medical Virology
Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine
Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT, Anzio Road, Observatory 7925
South Africa

Tel: +27 21 406 6124
      +27 21 406 6679 (PA)
Email: anna-lise.williamson@uct.ac.za

Alternate sites: http://www.virology.uct.ac.za/vir/staff/anna-lise-williamson 


Group members:
Academic Staff: Dr Ros Chapman, Dr Gerald Chege, Dr Niki Douglass
Post Doctoral Fellows: Alltallents Murahwa, Olivia Carulei, Emmanuel Margolin, Warren de Moor
Technical Staff: Phindile Ximba, Alana Keyser
Administrative Staff: Susan Lanfear
Students: Fezokuhle Khumalo, Kegomoditswe Malebo, Leah Whittle, Thabang Serakge, Cremildo Maueia, Asisipho Mzukwa, Abdul Isaacs, Kealan Benn


South Africa  
Professor Ed Rybicki, UCT Papillomavirus metagenomics, HIV vaccines
Dr Gerald Chege HIV Vaccines
Professor Lynn Morris HIV Vaccines
Dr David Coetzee, UCT Human Papillomavirus in Heterosexual Couples
Dr Jennifer Moodley, UCT Human Papillomavirus
Professor Lynette Denny, UCT Human Papillomavirus
Professor Jo-Ann Passmore Human Papillomavirus
Professor Ulf Gyllensten, University of Uppsala, Uppsala Human Papillomavirus