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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

New Division of Virology to deliver crucial services for HIV diagnosis and resistance testing
2015-12-14

The establishment of a Division of Virology within the Department of Medical Microbiology, under the joint auspices of the UFS and the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), reflects the continued growth within Virology.  Dr Dominique Goedhals, Head of the Division, says the division will also provide training of undergraduate medical students, medical technologists and technicians, and registrars.

The newly established Division of Virology at the University of the Free State will be one of only five laboratories in the country to be involved in crucial diagnostic and testing services for HIV viral load monitoring, early infant diagnosis, and HIV resistance testing.

The Virology Diagnostic Laboratory serves as the reference laboratory for all HIV National Priority Programme samples for the Free State and Northern Cape provinces.

Medical staff at the laboratory will provide a 24-hour consultative service, as well as outreach programmes to district laboratories in the Free State and Northern Cape where pathologists are not available. 

Dr Dominique Goedhals, Head of the Division of Virology, says this division, under the joint auspices of the UFS and the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), reflects the continued growth within Virology.

The division will not only deliver this critical diagnostic service, but will also focus on training and teaching, as well as research.

Teaching and training activities include teaching of undergraduate medical students, medical technologists and technicians, and registrars.  The postgraduate science programme has a high output of honours, master’s and doctoral students in Virology.  The intern medical scientist programme is also active, with five interns having successfully submitted their portfolios since the programme was implemented in 2010.

Research activities under the Head of Research, Prof Felicity Burt, have also expanded and continue to show increases in publication output and acquisition of grant funding.  Established research groups within the Division of Virology focus on vector-borne and zoonotic viruses, human papilloma viruses (HPV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as well as work with a number of international collaborators.


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