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A/Professor Heather Jaspan BSc MD PhD (Tulane) FAAP Peds ID

Division of Immunology

Heather Jaspan

Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology & Full Member, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town. Associate Professor, Department of Global Health and Pediatrics; University of Washington, Seattle, and Member, Center for Global Infectious Disease Research, Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Heather Jaspan completed her medical degree and Ph.D. in Immunology at Tulane in the USA, and thereafter did paediatrics training at the University of Washington/ Seattle Children's Hospital. Upon completion, she returned to Africa, first to Malawi and then back home to South Africa, where she spent 5 years doing clinical HIV prevention research. In 2008, she returned to Seattle Children's to obtain Paediatric Infectious Diseases subspecialty training, returning to basic science immunology research. She spends a large proportion of her time recruiting cohorts in South Africa, and running laboratories in both Cape Town and Seattle, answering immunological questions around HIV prevention in children via breastfeeding and in adolescents via sexual activity.

KEY EXPERTISE: HIV/AIDS, paediatrics, vaccines, mucosal immunity, adolescent and neonatal HIV prevention.

Research Focus:

  1. What are the determinants of effective cellular immune responses to vaccines and other antigens? To inform HIV vaccine design for neonates, we need to understand how the exposed infant's immune response is altered by the exposure and their consequent gut microbiome.
  2. Adolescent mucosal immunology. With collaborators locally and in the USA, we are interested in what immunological factors in the genital tract of young African females renders them at such high risk to HIV. Our lab is interested in the interplay between the microbiome and the immune system.
  3. Hormonal contraceptives and HIV risk: Since observational studies suggest that long-acting injectable contraceptives increase HIV risk, we have a number of international randomized trials examining microbiological and immunological mechanisms through which this could occur.
  4. Suppressors cells in infancy. With collaborators locally and in the USA, we are examining the frequency and function of newly described infant suppressor cells and how they may affect immunity in infants.
  5. Gut virome-microbiome interactions: We are interested in infant gut virome-microbiome vertical transmission and co-development


Selected publications:

Nyangahu D, Lennard KS, Brown BP, Darby MG, Wendoh JM, Havyarimana H, Smith P, Butcher J, Stintzi A, Mulder N, Horsnell W, Jaspan HB. Disruption of maternal gut microbiota during gestation alters offspring immunity. Microbiome 2018 Jul 7;6(1):124. PMID29981583. PMC6035804.

Wood LF, Brown BP, Lennard K, Karaoz U, Havyarimana E, Passmore JS, Hesseling AC, Edlefsen PT, Kuhn L, Mulder N, Brodie EL, Sodora DL, Jaspan HB. Feeding-related gut microbial composition associates with peripheral T cell activation and mucosal gene expression in African infants. Clin Infect Dis. 2018 Apr 5. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciy265.

Gasper M, Hesseling AC, Mohar I, Myer L, Azenkot T, Passmore JS, Hanekom W, Cotton MF, Crispe IN, Sodora DL, Jaspan HB. BCG vaccination induces HIV target cell activation in HIV-exposed infants: a randomized, open-label trial. JCI Insight 2017 Apr 6;2(7):e91963.

Lennard K, Dabee S, Barnabas SL, Havyarimana E, Blakney A, Jaumdally SZ, Botha G, Mkhize NN, Bekker LG, Lewis DA, Gray G, Mulder N, Passmore JS, Jaspan HB. Microbial composition predicts genital tract inflammation and persistent bacterial vaginosis in South African adolescent females. Infect Immun. 2017 Dec 19;86(1).

Tchakoute CT, Hesseling AC, Kidzeru EB, Gamieldien H, Passmore JA, Jones CE, Gray CM, Sodora DL, Jaspan HB. Delaying BCG vaccination until 8 weeks of age results in robust BCG-specific T-cell responses in HIV-exposed infants. J Infect Dis 2015;211(3):338-346.


Contact details:

Room 3.27, Falmouth Building
Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology
Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine
UCT Faculty of Health Sciences
Observatory 7925
South Africa

Tel:  +27 21 406 6823
Fax: +27 21 406 6029 
Email: hbjaspan@gmail.com

Alternate sites: http://www.health.uct.ac.za/fhs/departments/pathology




Group members:

Enock Havyarimana, Technician

Christina Balle, Postdoc

Agano Kiravu, PhD student (co-supervised)

Muchaneta Gudza-Mugabe, Postdoc

Anna-Ursula Happel, Postdoc 



Tom Hope, Northwestern University, Chicago, USA

Catherine Blish, Stanford, CA, USA

Steve Bosinger, Emory University, GA, USA

Adam Burgener, University of Mannitoba, USA

Renee Heffron, University of Washington, USA

Kevin Urdahl, Center for Infectious Disease Research (now Seattle Children’s Research Institute), WA, USA

Paul Edlefson, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, WA, USA

Maricianah Onono, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya

Alash’le Abimiku, Institute for Human Virology, University of MD/ Nigeria

John Aitchison, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, WA

Whitney Harrington, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, WA

Arvind Varsani, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

Eoin Brodie, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, USA

Pamela Gumbi, CAPRISA

Thesla Palanee, Wits Reproductive Health Institute


Anneke Hesseling (Stellenbosch University)

Linda-Gail Bekker

Clive Gray

Jo-Ann Passmore

Lindi Masson

Bill Horsnell

Nicola Mulder

Jonathan Blackburn