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University of Cape Town (Cape Town, South Africa)

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The Allergology department of the University of Cape Town was established by Prof Eugene Weinberg at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and started training its first senior registrars in 1981! Prof Cas Motala took over in 2003 and led the service until his tragic passing in 2010. The adult division was lead from 1986 till 2016 by Prof Paul Potter.

Our Mission is to transform the lives of patients with allergies and immune-based disease through innovative science and compassionate care. This involves the provision of clinical patient care; allergy education and training for undergraduates and postgraduates, both South Africans and foreigners, with a focus on the support of Sub-Saharan Africans; and the performing locally relevant research and advocacy for improved service provision across the continent.

Via the division and the Allergy Foundation of South Africa, we have close ties with patient advocates and support their activities with large amounts of public relations.

The “Allergies in Africa” webinars / podcasts takes place every 2 -4 weeks, which is disseminated live, and for free to anyone who wishes to watch and is available on our website thereafter.  We currently have over 50 podcasts on the website available for viewing.

The department currently has one full time paediatric consultant (Assoc Prof Mike Levin), one full time adult consultant (Assoc Prof Jonny Peter) and one full-time medical officer (Dr Di Hawarden). Part time staff include Assoc Prof Claudia Gray, Emeritus Professors Paul Potter and Eugene Weinberg, and Drs Jeanette Holtzhausen and Sarah Karabus. Prof Jill Warner and Prof John Warner were appointed as honorary professors in the division in 2014.

Core services

Currently the service provides a tertiary level diagnostic and treatment service for thousands of children and adults each year.  We receive referrals of complex allergy and immunology cases from all across South Africa and neighboring countries. We have multidisciplinary clinics in both paediatrics and adult services with, amongst others, dieticians, dermatologists, rheumatologists, immunologists, gastroenterologists and renal specialists.

New challenges are continually being faced by the staff – allergic diseases are on the increase in the black African population who often have difficulties with access to medication.  More importantly, the spectrum of diseases has changed, with less minor allergic diseases and more complex cases. Food allergy is increasing in prevalence and in severity, there is a rise in severe, difficult to control asthma, adverse reaction to drugs is emerging as a significant problem, and the prevalence of anaphylaxis appears to be rising

The University of Cape Town together with the GSH/RXH hospital complex, is currently the only certified training centre for Allergology in South Africa. We provide and co-ordinate all allergy and a considerable portion of the basic immunology teaching to undergraduate and postgraduate students. We are accredited for subspecialist allergy training and have graduated local allergy fellows in South Africa and colleagues from African countries outside our borders.

Our unit has a long history of conducting international competitive and locally relevant research. We are leaders across the country for conducting both investigator- and industry-led studies. Investigator-led projects allow us to focus on local populations and address locally relevant clinical questions. Industry-led studies allow us to gain valuable experience with novel allergy therapeutics, as well as help our patients with limited resources and complex or severe diseases.

Our diagnostic laboratory provides a niche allergy diagnostic service for private and public patients. The laboratory currently investigates ~1800 patients/year (approximately 5000 tests per year).  The laboratory offers several unique tests not available elsewhere in Southern Africa, including basophil activation testing, mast cell tryptase, micro arrays, Western blot specific IgE tests and allergen extract preparation for skin prick or oral challenges.