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Associate Members

Dr. Heather Jaspan BSc MD PhD(Tulane) FAAP Peds ID

Heather Jaspan

Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology & Associate 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 PhD in Immunology at Tulane in 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, 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. How does exclusive breast feeding decrease the breastfed HIV-exposed infant's risk of HIV infection? This project analyses the immune activation, microbial translocation, and stool microbiome of exclusively versus non-exclusively breastfed infants in a longitudinal cohort study.
  3. 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.
  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.


Selected publications:

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.

Blakney AK, Tchakoute CT, Hesseling AC, Kidzeru EB, Jones CE, Passmore JA, Sodora DL, Gray CM, Jaspan HB. Delayed BCG vaccination results in minimal alterations in T cell immunogenicity of acellular pertussis and tetanus immunizations in HIV-exposed infants. Vaccine 2015;33(38):4782-4789.

Kidzeru E B, Hesseling AC, Passmore JA, Myer L, Gamieldien H, Tchakoute CT, Gray CM, Sodora DL, Jaspan HB. In-utero exposure to maternal HIV infection alters T cell immune responses to vaccination in HIV-uninfected infants. AIDS 2014;28(10):1421-1430.


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 


Alternate sites:


Group members:

Elvis Kidzeru, PhD. Postdoctoral Fellow

Enock Havyarimana, Technician

Christina Balle, PhD student

Bryan Brown, PhD student

Agano Kiravu, PhD student (co-supervised)

Jerome Wendoh Milimu, PhD student

Donald Nyangahu, PhD student

Aerin Breedzke, MSc student

Rachel Esra, MSc student

Trishana Nundallal, MSc student



Jo-Ann Passmore, Division of Medical Virology, UCT

Prof Linda-Gail Bekker, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, UCT

Prof Clive Gray, Division of Immunology, UCT

Anneke Hesseling, Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Stellenbosch University

Don Sodora, Center for Infectious Disease Research, USA

Renee Heffron, University of Washington, USA

Eoin Brodie, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, USA

Steven Bosinger, Emory University, USA

William Cameron, Ottawa Health Research Center, Canada

Adam Burgener, University of Manitoba, Canada