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Zoonoses Research Unit


The Zoonoses Research Unit (ZRU) focuses on the investigation of vector borne and zoonotic diseases in humans and animals in the country. What makes this unit unique is the close ties between human and animal health and embodies the true meaning of the “One Health approach” of research in the medical and veterinary fields. We are investigating neurological diseases in humans and animals that are caused by arboviruses as well as emerging pathogens. The unit is an extension of the Zoonosis research programme on West Nile Virus that was started by Prof Venter in the Department of Medical Virology in 2005. It has grown into an independent unit within the department with state of the art BSL2, BSL3 and molecular laboratories. We currently have 3 senior academic staff members and an extraordinary professor in the unit with different expertise:


  • Prof Bob Swanepoel is a full professor in the unit and serves as our biosecurity and zoonotic disease consultant.
  • Prof Marietjie Venter is a molecular virologist specialising in zoonotic and respiratory viral diseases in a joint appointment as One Health Program director with the US-Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Disease Detection Program.
  • Prof Leo Braack is our ecologist and entomologist and research chair in the Centre for Sustainable Malaria control.
  • Extraordinary Professor Paulo Almeida is a arbovirus entomologist and parasitologist from IHMT - Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, University of Lisbon Portugal.


The ZRU is funded mainly by the Global Disease Detection Programme of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention of the USA and aims to identify emerging and reemerging vector borne zoonotic pathogens in Africa.

The Unit is part of the University of Pretoria Institutional Research theme on Biotechnology in animal health and zoonosis and has projects running to target the following aims: