Group leader: Heather Jaspan

Heather Jaspan

Phone: +27 21 406 6823

Office: Falmouth 3.27 (entrance 2, use lift to floor 3)

A key aspect of the Division of Immunology is the study of Paediatric immunity. Infants are considered to be immunologically “immature” but in fact they may have immune systems that are capable of mature responses but are actively suppressed. Understanding infant immunology is important in the development of vaccines, for example, HIV vaccines, for infants. Likewise, understanding the factors influencing the immunology of adolescent genital tract will inform preventative interventions for this age group.

An example of an ongoing study is the INFANT (INnate Factors Associated with Nursing Transmission) study, an international collaborative study taking place in Cape Town and in Jos in Nigeria, and funded by the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative/Canadian Institutes for Health Research. The study aims to find out what protects babies who are exclusively breastfed by their HIV-positive mothers from HIV infection versus infants who receive mixed feeding – breast and formula. The study investigates both the composition of breast milk as well as what happens in the immune systems of the babies. The overall goal is to decrease HIV transmission but also to make formula feeding safer. Another outcome of the project is to look at how bottle feeding and HIV exposure affect the immune system response to vaccinations. The study site in Cape Town is Khayelitsha and mothers are followed for a year to 18 months with study visits coinciding with routine clinic visits. A sub study being conducted by the University of Stellenbosch is examining the behavioural and cultural issues involved in choices around breast versus formula feeding.

The INFANT study examines the innate, adaptive and mucosal immune responses against HIV-1 in infants with the aim of developing a human model to understand correlates of immune protection.

Other projects include:

  • Assessing feeding practices, immune activation, and HIV risk in African infants.
  • Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) suppress infant immune responses.
  • Intestinal microbiota, immune activation and vaccine responsiveness of the HIV-exposed infant.
  • Hormone-induced mucosal susceptibility and HIV risk in South African adolescents.


Heather Jaspan - Google Scholar

Heather B Jaspan - Seattle Children's Hospital


Recent publications:

  1. Esra RT, Olivier AJ, Passmore JA, Jaspan HB, Harryparsad R, Gray CM. Does HIV Exploit the Inflammatory Milieu of the Male Genital Tract for Successful Infection? Front Immunol. 2016 7:245
  2. Hesseling AC, Blakney AK, Jones CE, Esser MM, de Beer C, Kuhn L, Cotton MF, Jaspan HBDelayed BCG immunization does not alter antibody responses to EPI vaccines in HIV-exposed and -unexposed South African infants. Vaccine. 2016 34(32):3702-9
  3. Passmore JA, Jaspan HB, Masson L. Genital inflammation, immune activation and risk of sexual HIV acquisition. Curr Opin HIV AIDS. 2016 11(2):156-62
  4. Masson L, Salkinder AL, Olivier AJ, McKinnon LR, Gamieldien H, Mlisana K, Scriba TJ, Lewis DA, Little F, Jaspan HB, Ronacher K, Denny L, Abdool Karim SS, Passmore JA. Relationship between female genital tract infections, mucosal interleukin-17 production and local T helper type 17 cells. Immunology. 2015 146(4):557-67.
  5. Blakney AK, Tchakoute CT, Hesseling AC, Kidzeru EB, Jones CE, Passmore JA, Sodora DL, Gray CM, Jaspan HBDelayed BCG vaccination results in minimal alterations in T cell immunogenicity of acellular pertussis and tetanus immunizations in HIV-exposed infants. Vaccine 2015 33(38):4782-9
  6. Tchakoute CT, Hesseling AC, Kidzeru EB, Gamieldien H, Passmore JA, Jones CE, Gray CM, Sodora DL, Jaspan HBDelaying 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):338-46