South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
Building a healthy nation through research and innovation


Diarrhoeal Pathogens Research Unit


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Co-Director: Prof Duncan Steele

Prof M. Jeffrey MphahleleCo- Director: Prof M. Jeffrey Mphahlele
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The Diarrhoeal Pathogens Research Unit (DPRU) was established at the former MEDUNSA in April 1996, and was the first SAMRC unit to be founded at a previously disadvantaged institution. The DPRU was founded in order to address a national and continental disease that was under-researched in Africa. Diarrhoeal diseases remain a leading cause of mortality among infants and young children in Africa. It is estimated that diarrhoeal diseases are the primary cause of death in infants younger than 5 years, leading to between 160 and 200 deaths per day in South Africa.

The mission of this unit is to:

  • study viral and microbial agents associated with diarrhoea in infants and young children in southern Africa
  • investigate the molecular epidemiology of rotavirus infection in southern Africa with a view to optimising the future implementation of a rotavirus vaccine strategy
  • study the molecular pathogenesis of rotavirus infection, using the vast array of clinical material available, as well as detailed molecular analysis of the associated viruses
  • support biotechnological developments in the field of anti-diarrhoeal vaccines, which could have a dramatic effect on our population
  • promote a public understanding and awareness of diarrhoeal disease, and the importance of research in this area
  • develop human capital capacity by training young researchers, equipping them to join the local scientific community
  • collaborate actively with both national and international researchers
  • contribute to the science system through a range of scholarly activities.

In addition, the unit strives to:

  • study the epidemiology and molecular characterisation of small round structured viruses that have emerged as important aetiological agents in other developing countries
  • characterise enterotoxin-producing strains of E. coli and Shigella.

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Last updated:
29 February, 2016
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