South Africa

South Africa Site

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), in partnership with the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, will support the establishment of CHAMPS in South Africa.  


“CHAMPS will provide clarity on what is causing deaths, determine the clinical relevance of viruses and determine the bacterial causes of pneumonia. The South African government is eager for the opportunity to reduce child mortality.” - Dr. Shabir Mahdi, NICD Executive Director


Soweto, a township of Johannesburg, South Africa, has a population of more than 1.2 million people. It is one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of Johannesburg, with high unemployment and significant health challenges.


The Soweto area is served by the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the largest in the southern hemisphere. The hospital sees approximately 24,000 births per year – the majority of Soweto’s 28,000 annual births. Throughout South Africa, pregnant women and children under the age of 18 receive free medical care.


However, despite access to health care, up to 50 percent of child deaths occur at home. Most of these deaths are sudden and unexplained, with many never receiving a clinical cause of death determination. This results in a lack of understanding about why young children in Soweto are getting sick and dying, and often leaves families with unresolved questions.


Infant mortality in Soweto is higher than other areas of South Africa – 53 out of 1,000 children die before they reach one year old. HIV, tuberculosis, rotavirus, pneumonia, and other infections are thought to account for many of these deaths.


In Soweto, CHAMPS works with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), whose mission is to provide knowledge and expertise on regionally relevant communicable diseases, as well as assisting in the planning of health policies and programs, and supporting responses to communicable disease issues. From June 2015 to February 2016, NICD piloted a study of minimally invasive tissue sampling (MITS) for 270 cases of under-five mortality.




Additional Resources

  • National Institute for Communicable Diseases

  • World Health Organization, South Africa

  • All Africa: South Africa News Center

South Africa Partners



The Medical Research Council Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit (RMPRU) at the University of the Witwatersrand leads the CHAMPS site in South Africa. The RMPRU is an African-led research unit that integrates basic science, clinical and epidemiology research to improve the health of communities through vaccines. The research places special emphasis on improving the health of high-risk and vulnerable groups, particularly neonates, young infants, pregnant women, and HIV-infected individuals.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital

Chris Hani Barawanath Hospital

Soweto, a township of Johannesburg, is served by the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the largest in the southern hemisphere. The hospital sees approximately 24,000 births per year – the majority of Soweto’s 28,000 annual births.


RMPRU’s field site in Soweto has been located at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHBAH) since 1997. RMPRU has 267 staff members at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, including medical research doctors, nurses, research assistants, medical scientists, technologists, and data management personnel. The RMPRU has a state of the art laboratory which is focused on molecular testing, microbiology and immunology and provides clinic space at CHBAH. Although none of the RMPRU staff have clinical responsibilities at the hospital, the Unit has developed a strong relationship with the hospital staff in the Departments of Pediatrics as well as Obstetrics and Gynecology.

National Institute for Communicable Diseases


Established in January 2002, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) came into being following the restructuring of the public sector medical laboratory services of South Africa and the creation of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) from the previous South African Institute for Medical Research (SAIMR) and various governmental and provincial laboratories. The NICD has programs on all communicable diseases, including virology, microbiology, parasitology, and entomology laboratories to create a comprehensive public health communicable diseases institution.

The NICD also serves as a WHO reference laboratory in a multiplicity of areas, including HIV, TB, Polio and Measles, Severe Bacterial Infections and Zoonotic Diseases. It is home to the only accredited BSL4 facility on the continent. Shabir Madhi, the Site Director, is also the Executive Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa. Even prior to the Site Director assuming the role of Director at NICD, RMPRU has collaborated closely with the NICD on epidemiology and vaccine-related studies.

Wits Health Consortium


The Wits Health Consortium is a Company of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (South Africa) under its Faculty of Health Sciences. WHC provides the University of the Witwatersrand with a legal framework to guide operations of research and other activities necessary to support its academic objectives. WHC offers a range of additional products and services to researchers at the University, encouraging academics to operate their entities along entrepreneurial lines with strong investigator ownership.


WHC was formed in March 1998 to harness the commercial potential within the university faculty and to capitalise on clinical research. WHC has also been the fertile breeding ground for many initiatives, including the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre.