Welcome to Stellenbosch University

Division of Medical Virology

​​Diagnostic Virology


Diagnosic Services

As part of National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) Tygerberg, the Division’s diagnostic section offers a comprehensive repertoire of SANAS-accredited virological laboratory tests for Tygerberg Hospital and its referral area. Its workload increased further during 2008, due to the expansion of the antiretroviral roll-out programme. HIV viral load testing alone increased by 63% in 2008. This allowed Virology to recover from a financial loss in 2007/2008 to a very profitable position in 2008/2009. However, staff capacity is now seriously stretched. The Division again performed all testing for the annual antenatal HIV and syphilis survey for the Western Cape province. It also continued to be a partner laboratory in the national “Viral Watch” influenza surveillance programme coordinated by NICD.

Almost 95,000 virological tests were done during 2007, up from around 64,000 the previous year. More than half of these were antibody tests. Almost 19,000 HIV viral load tests were performed for patients on the antiretroviral roll-out programme, compared to less than 6000 during 2006. The number of proviral PCRs for the diagnosis of HIV-infected infants reached almost 7000, up from around 1700 in 2006. Although still small in number, the 324 samples tested for HIV antiretroviral drug resistance by means of genotyping shows the increasing relevance of this emerging problem. The Division was able to use its own in house assay for this which means a significant reduction in cost. This also shows the importance of ongoing research projects, the results of which directly benefit the clinical service and thus patients.

The continued increase in diagnostic workload was managed with a constant diagnostic workforce. At the same time, increasing numbers of student intern medical technologists, registrars, and for the first time an intern medical technician are being trained, in order to help alleviate the crippling shortage of specialised staff in this area in South Africa.

The Division acquired a real-time PCR machine (Applied Biosystems 7900HT Fast Real-Time PCR System), an automated sequencer (ABI 3130xl Genetic analyser), an automated nucleic acid isolation system (QiaCube) and an Uvitec UVIprocemi II D-77LS-26M image acquisition system. The SANAS-accredited in-house HIV-1 drug resistance assay is run on the sequencer.

Contact details:

Results and Reception
Tel: 021 938 4330 / 4904 

Tel: 021 938 9691 / 9057

Tel no: 021 938 9357

For special pathogens, please consult the Sampling Manual

Registrar Posts becomes available at a regular basis. South African registered doctors who have completed community service can enquire from the secretary, about the approximate date of next intake and the application requirements.

Laboratory Manager
Ms Tania Stander
Tel: 021 938 9355


Clinical Diagnostics

The Division of Medical Virology has a well equipped Clinical Diagnostic laboratory, which forms part of the National Health Laboratory Service, Tygerberg Business Unit, Coastal Branch. This laboratory renders a clinical diagnostic service to Tygerberg Academic Hospital (TBH) and the secondary hospitals and primary clinics that drain to TBH.

The Diagnostic Laboratory is SANAS accredited with ISO 15198 since July 2002.The staff component consists of a laboratory manager, one full-time pathologist (excluding the Head of the Division), 6 full-time technologists, one part-time technologist, a data-entry clerk and supporting staff. The laboratory is well equipped and includes the sections: virus cell-culture and isolation, viral serology and a molecular diagnostic section. Most specimens are tested onsite but low volume tests and requests for rare diagnoses are referred or received through the NHLS laboratory network. The Tygerberg laboratory is the only one that performs diagnostic antiretroviral resistance testing within the NHLS and receives samples nationwide for this purpose.

Apart from routine diagnostic services the laboratory offers practical training to registrars in pathology, medical science students and medical technology students.   The laboratory strives for constant improvement by identifying diagnostic needs in our environment, by conducting operational research that evaluates diagnostic techniques and by maintaining good communication with clients.