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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

#Women'sMonth: Lack of HIV education still affects children
2017-08-17

Description: Nickie Goedhals Tags: Dr Nickie Goedhals, Medical Microbiology and Virology, The Lancet, transmission of HIV, National Research Foundation 

Dr Nickie Goedhals, Senior Lecturer and Pathologist
in Medical Microbiology and Virology at the UFS.
Photo: Sonia Small



“Despite all the advances in the management and prevention of HIV, children still become infected every day, often due to lack of education and access to health care.” This is according to Dr Nickie Goedhals, Senior Lecturer and Pathologist in Medical Microbiology and Virology at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Study published in UK medical Journal 
A case study she was part of and published in the UK medical journal The Lancet in 2012, demonstrates the transmission of HIV to a child through surrogate breastfeeding. This study is one of the many highlights in the young researcher’s career. She received her first rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) in 2017 for the work she has done in Medical Virology over the past eight years.

According to the above-mentioned study, only about 1% of infants in South Africa are being breastfed by a surrogate. However, results from a study in the Free State showed that shared breastfeeding by a non-biological caregiver was the most important factor associated with HIV infection in discordant mother-child pairs. Therefore, continued education about the risk of HIV transmission is needed.

Dr Goedhals is also continuing with research on HIV by looking at HIV drug resistance. She is in the process of starting new projects focusing on HIV infection and drug resistance in infants.

PSP helped with NRF-rating
She says, although her NRF Y2-rating is the starting point of a research career, it shows that she is heading in the right direction, and it “gives access to research funds through the NRF for future projects.” Other important research she conducted was on Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever – the study for her PhD.

The Prestige Scholars Programme (PSP) at the UFS is the reason that she applied for the rating. “With all the service delivery, teaching, and administrative responsibilities of academic medicine, it is easy to lose focus. The PSP has really helped to create a focused and stimulating environment for research.” According to her, the PSP also provides access to a network of peers and senior staff at the UFS, as well as exposure to national and international experts.

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