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

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:

The use of directed evolution to create a stable and immunogenic recombinant BCG expressing a modified HIV-1 Gag antigen. Chapman R, Bourn WR, Shephard E, Stutz H, Douglass N, Mgwebi T, Meyers A, Chin'ombe N, Williamson AL. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 25;9(7):e103314. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103314. eCollection 2014.

The complete genome sequences of poxviruses isolated from a penguin and a pigeon in South Africa and comparison to other sequenced avipoxviruses. Offerman K, Carulei O, van der Walt AP, Douglass N, Williamson AL. BMC Genomics. 2014 Jun 12;15:463. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-15-463.

The novel capripoxvirus vector lumpy skin disease virus efficiently boosts modified vaccinia Ankara human immunodeficiency virus responses in rhesus macaques. Burgers WA, Ginbot Z, Shen YJ, Chege GK, Soares AP, Müller TL, Bunjun R, Kiravu A, Munyanduki H, Douglass N, Williamson AL. J Gen Virol. 2014 Oct;95(Pt 10):2267-72.

Comprehensive profiling of the vaginal microbiome in HIV positive women using massive parallel semiconductor sequencing. Ameur A, Meiring TL, Bunikis I, Häggqvist S, Lindau C, Lindberg JH, Gustavsson I, Mbulawa ZZ, Williamson AL, Gyllensten U. Sci Rep. 2014 Mar 18;4:4398. doi: 10.1038/srep04398.

Justification for the inclusion of Gag in HIV vaccine candidates. Williamson AL, Rybicki EP.Expert Rev Vaccines 2015 Dec 28:1-14 (Epub ahead of print)

Human Papillomavirus prevalence in South African women and men according to age and human immunodeficiency virus status. Mbulawa ZZ, Coetzee D, Williamson AL. BMC Infect Dis. 2015 Oct 26; 15:459. doi: 10.1186/s 12879-015-1181-8

K Offerman, A Deffur, O Carulei, R Wilkinson, N Douglass, AL Williamson (2015).   Six host-range restricted poxviruses from three genera induce distinct gene expression profiles in an in vivo mouse model.  BMC genomics 16 (1), 1.

Olivia Carulei, Nicola Douglass, Anna-Lise Williamson (2017) 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. Volume 18 (1). 947. 

Guy L Regnard, Warren RJ de Moor, Inga I Hitzeroth, Anna-Lise Williamson, Edward P Rybicki (2017) Xenogenic rolling-circle replication of a synthetic beak and feather disease virus genomic clone in 293TT mammalian cells and Nicotiana benthamiana. Journal of General Virology. Volume 98 (9). 2329-2338.

Dzhivhuho GA, Rehrl S1, Ndlovu H, Horsnell WGC, Brombacher F, Williamson AL, Chege GK. (2018) 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 Jul 26;14(7):e1007182. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007182. eCollection 2018 Jul.

Zizipho ZA Mbulawa, Carl van Schalkwyk, Nai-Chung Hu, Tracy L Meiring, Shaun Barnabas, Smritee Dabee, Heather Jaspan, Jean-Mari Kriek, Shameem Z Jaumdally, Ettienne Muller, Linda-Gail Bekker, David A Lewis, Janan Dietrich, Glenda Gray, Jo-Ann S Passmore, Anna-Lise Williamson (2018). High human papillomavirus (HPV) prevalence in South African adolescents and young women encourages expanded HPV vaccination campaigns. PLoS One. 2018 Jan 2;13(1). 

Williamson A-L, Garland S, Palefsky J, Rybicki E, Stanley M, de Sanjose S. (2018) The Cape Town declaration on human papillomavirus related disease. Papillomavirus Res. 2018 Jun; 5: 59-60. 

Murahwa AT, Meiring TL, Mbulawa ZZA, Williamson AL. (2018). Complete Genome Sequences of Four Novel Human Gammapapillomavirus Types, HPV-219, HPV-220, HPV-221, and HPV-222, Isolated from Penile Skin Swabs from South African Men. Genome Announc. 2018 Jun 21;6(25). pii: e00584-18. doi: 10.1128/genomeA.00584-18.

Margolin E, Chapman R, Williamson AL, Rybicki EP, Meyers AE (2018). Production of complex viral glycoproteins in plants as vaccine immunogens. Plant Biotechnol J. 2018 Jun 11. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12963. 

van Diepen MT, Chapman R, Moore PL, Margolin E, Hermanus T, Morris L, Ximba P, Rybicki EP, Williamson AL.  The adjuvant AlhydroGel elicits higher antibody titres than AddaVax when combined with HIV-1 subtype C gp140 from CAP256.  PLoS One. 2018 Dec 17;13(12):e0208310. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0208310. eCollection 2018.  

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:

Research Staff
Academic Staff Dr Ros Chapman HIV Vaccine development
  Dr Niki Douglass Poxviruses as vaccine vectors
  Dr Zizipho Mbulawa Human Papillomavirus Research
Honorary Academic Staff Hosted in AL Williamson group Dr Gerald Chege Non-human primate models
Personal Assistant Susan Lanfear Administrative support
Technologists/Scientists Emmanuel Margolin HIV Vaccine Development
  Shireen Galant HIV Vaccine Development
  Phindile Ximba HIV Vaccine Development
  Michiel van Diepen HIV Vaccine Development
  Ruzaiq Omar Veterinary Vaccine Development
  Dr Henry Munyanduki Veterinary Vaccine Development
Technology/Scientist (GK Chege team) hosted in AL Williamson group Alana Keyser Non-human primate models
  Craig Adams Non-human primate models
Laboratory Manager Fatima Abrahams  
Project Manager Nayna Manga SHIP Project



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