South Africa

National Institute for Communicable Diseases

Professor Adrian Puren – Acting Executive Director

1 Modderfontein Road, Sandringham, 2031

Contact: Dr Natalie Mayet


Institute Profile

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) was established in 2002, under the auspices of the National Health Laboratory Services, after the merger of the National Institute for Virology and the South African Institute of Medical Research.

The NICD is a resource of knowledge and expertise in regionally relevant communicable diseases to the South African Government, SADC countries and the African continent. The Institute is modelled on the USA Centres for Disease Control & Prevention - Communicable Diseases and provides reference microbiology, virology, epidemiology, surveillance and public health research to support the government’s response to communicable disease threats.

The NICD has a complement of 260 full time staff, 133 contractual staff and hosts 17 student trainees per annum in the disciplines of medical technology, medical science and epidemiology.

The NICD Administration Building based in Sandringham Johannesburg

The NICD Administration Building based in Sandringham Johannesburg

Functions of the NICD

The core functions of the NICD include:

  • surveillance of communicable diseases supporting evidence based decision-making that contributes health policy formulation for the Ministry of Health
  • collection , analyses and interpretation of communicable diseases data on a systematic basis
  • continuous and systematic monitoring for the emergence of new infectious diseases and for the re-emergence of previously controlled infectious diseases
  • the early detection of outbreaks in order respond effectively
  • the engagement in relevant research related to regional public health communicable disease surveillance and management
  • the building of scientific and epidemiologic capacity for communicable diseases nationally and regionally
  • the provision of a reference function to communicable diseases laboratories in the public and private sectors

Structure of the NICD

The NICD is organised into seven functional Centres and a transversal Division, bringing together expertise in public health, microbiology, entomology and epidemiology to enable an integrated public health response to communicable disease threats:

  1. Centre for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases
  2. Centre for Enteric Diseases
  3. Centre for HIV and STI
  4. Centre for Opportunistic, Tropical and Hospital Infections
  5. Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis
  6. Centre for Tuberculosis
  7. Centre for Vaccines and Immunology

The transversal Division of Public Health, Surveillance and Response facilitates the early detection, co-ordination and response to outbreaks. The Division also communicates through the publication of expert guidelines; monthly NICD Communiqués and surveillance reports. The Centres also host seminars during the year eg World Rabies Day, World TB Day and produce quarterly Bulletins; and a number of peer- reviewed publications per annum.

Some of the Major outbreaks and events that NICD has responded to since 2002


The NICD`s mission to contribute to surveillance and the control of communicable diseases is evolving and to be part of the National Public Health Institute for South Africa and its strength is in both laboratory and clinic based surveillance with built in alerts for specific priority diseases. Surveillance activities span across the country and region and include sentinel syndromic surveillance for diarrhoeal disease in children; HIV drug resistance; TB drug resistance; STI-gonococcal surveillance; HPV surveillance; nosocomial infections; Candidemia; Cryptococcal meningitis; polio; measles; respiratory disease and malaria vector surveillance et al.

Institute is home to five BSL3 laboratories and has the only BSL4 laboratory in Africa. This laboratory provides the diagnostic capacity to test bio hazardous materials and pathogenic organisms such as Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, Lassa fever and the Ebola virus.

BSL4 Laboratory in action1

BSL4 Laboratory in action



The NICD was the first to provide diagnostic laboratory capacity in Freetown, Sierra Leone in August 2014 and the 9 teams of scientists deployed tested more than 6096 specimens. The laboratory equipment was localized and the NICD teams trained and continue to provide local laboratory capacity building.



The NICD has established an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) on behalf of the National Department of Health, aimed at providing a command, control and co-ordination centre for the response to public health events of significance.

Emergency Operation Centre

The NICD has established and maintain an NICD Scientific Advisory Committee of external experts that will assist in improving its support to the Department of Health.


The NICD has a 10-15% year-on-year increase in publications in international peer-reviewed journals Highlights was the work profiled in the highest ranking medical journals globally: a feature in the journal Nature, which highlighted the NICD's surveillance of pneumococcal disease in South Africa and how it has contributed to evaluating the effect of childhood pneumococcal conjugate vaccine immunisation against pneumococcal disease, including reducing the burden of antibiotic-resistant strains. This was followed by t he results of this surveillance being published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which reported on pneumococcal conjugate vaccine immunisation of young South African children conferring direct protection to them, as well as indirectly protecting unvaccinated individuals against pneumococcal disease (a leading cause of death in children and adults). The surveillance activities at the NICD, reported in Lancet Infectious Diseases, showed reductions in all-cause diarrhoea hospitalisation (the second most common killer of children in the 1-59 months age group globally), since having introduced the rotavirus vaccine into the public immunisation programme.


The NICD has 5 WHO Regional reference labs

  • WHO Regional Reference Lab for Plague;
  • WHO National Influenza Centre;
  • Measles (Serology and Molecular) and Poliovirus (Isolation and Molecular)
  • WHO Regional Reference Lab for HIV Drug Resistance Testing & Supranational reference lab for the SADC region n
  • TB Supranational status for WHO Global, Candidate Supranational status

The NICD hosts an insectary housing unique colonies of malaria vectors and a bat colony.


The NICD collaborates, partners and has co-operative agreements with local, national, regional and international institutes, organisations and universities.

Some of the partner institutions include various: - Advisory Groups; GOARN; WHO; PulseNet Africa;

Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise; CDC Labnet; GAVI; Emory; Columbia University; WHO - Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance ; International cryptococcal meningitis action group ; Sterile Insect Technique Research Feasibility Steering Committee; Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN); Southern African Resistance Network; Atomic Energy Control Sterile Insect Project ; National Polio Expert Committee; National Task Force for Polio containment; National Certification Committee for Polio eradication; Measles LabNet; Polio LabNet ; Public Health England in the UK; the European Centre for Disease Control ;Surveillance Network for Zoonotic Diseases; Alleged Release of Biological Agents UN Secretary General, AFENET, TEPHINET


The NICD provides training at undergraduate, postgraduate and post doc level for medical

Practical Training in Laboratory

Practical Training in Laboratory

registrars, intern medical scientists and intern medical technologists and epidemiologists. The NICD is home to the only Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme in South Africa producing an average of 7-8 Field Epidemiologists per annum.


The Institute also hosts a number of capacity building lectures or short courses aimed at health care providers in the Public and private sector and provides a resource for information on communicable diseases to the media and general public.

Training on Effective Communication in a Crises

Training on Effective Communication in a Crises

Further information

Please review the NICD website on