Head of Centre
Cheryl Cohen is an Associate Professor in epidemiology at the University of the Witwatersrand and head of the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis. She qualified as a medical doctor at the University of the Witwatersrand and is a Fellow of the College of Pathologists of South Africa in the discipline of Microbiology.

She obtained an MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom and a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand. In her position at the NICD, she works closely with the South African Department of Health to generate evidence to guide policy with regard to the control and management of respiratory diseases. She led the establishment of a national surveillance programme for severe acute respiratory infections in South Africa in 2009 and is the epidemiology lead for national surveillance for pneumonia and invasive bacterial infections causing pneumonia.

She heads up a team with an active research agenda in the field of respiratory diseases with a focus on the burden of disease and risk groups for severe illness, as well as assessment of the impact and effectiveness of interventions to reduce respiratory disease burden. She is a member of several national advisory committees as well as several international World Health Organization working groups, mainly related to influenza and other respiratory viruses.


Section Lead: Epidemiology
Dr Sibongile Walaza is a medical doctor with a MSc in Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a PhD in Public Health from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the Epidemiology section lead for the Centre for Respiratory Disease and Meningitis at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa.

In this position she is responsible for the implementation of the surveillance programmes within the centre, in particular she has been responsible for developing the protocols for the expanded surveillance for severe respiratory illness and the pneumonia surveillance and field implementation of these protocols. She leads the team that is responsible for the epidemiology analysis and reporting of SARS-CoV-2 case data in South Africa.

She has a joint appointment as a lecturer at the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersand and has co-supervised MSc Students in the field of epidemiology. She has published a number of peer-reviewed articles in the field of influenza and other respiratory illnesses. She has contributed to the development of guidelines for prevention and management of influenza in South Africa and is a member of the National influenza planning Committee. She has worked as an investigator on phase III clinical trilals of novel Microbicides.


Section Lead: Laboraory

Dr Anne von Gottberg is currently the laboratory lead for the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg, South Africa and Associate Professor within the School of Pathology, Faculty of the Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; and Honorary Professor, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town.

She leads a laboratory team responsible for reference diagnostics for respiratory and meningeal pathogens nationally and regionally. The laboratory is the regional reference laboratory for the World Health Organization (WHO) Vaccine-preventable Invasive Bacterial Diseases (VP-IBD) Coordinated Global Surveillance Network for the southern African region; a National Influenza Centre (NIC); and a WHO RSV and SARS-CoV-2 Reference Laboratory.

Her main interests include surveillance for meningitis and respiratory pathogens, assessing vaccine effectiveness where relevant. She has authored or co-authored more than 170 articles in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, she supervises a number of Masters and PhD students. Dr von Gottberg obtained her MBBCh and PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand, and trained for her specialisation in clinical microbiology (FC Path[SA] MICRO) at the National Health Laboratory Service (former South African Institute for Medical Research) and at the University of the Witwatersrand.