Start making sense of your financial wellness.

Watch the Sitholes every Thursday at 17h30 on e.tv

KZN scientist makes HIV/Aids breakthrough

Comment on this story


nm Thumbi1

INLSA

Thumbi Ndungu is a Durban scientist whose research team may be on its way to finding meaningful answers to the HIV vaccine question.

Differences in the rate of development of Aids among HIVinfected people have led KZN investigators to identify a tiny subset of “HIV controllers” who possess rare protective genes that incapacitate the virus.

It is hoped these new discoveries may ultimately lead to a vaccine against HIV/Aids.

Among these investigators is a young KZN scientist Thumbi Ndung’u, who has been awarded a R5 million US Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) International Early Career Scientist Award over five years, to delve deeper into the workings of immune genes in an effort to find a vaccine to fight HIV.

Ndung’u is the scientific director of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s HIV Pathogenesis Programme in Durban and associate professor in HIV/Aids research.

Delighted with the news of the award, Ndung’u said it would enable researchers in KZN to study in greater detail interaction of immune genes with HIV.

“We can begin to test whether we can use this knowledge to develop vaccines.”

The key focus of his research is on how the body fights HIV infection and more specifically the workings of the body’s immune proteins that can block or fight off HIV infection.

Recently Ndung’u’s team has unravelled the mechanism of an immune protein called HLA-B*81 and how it can protect against HIV by acting as a red flag that alerts the immune system to the presence of HIV, followed by incapacitation of the virus.

“My passion is to help find some answers to a disease which has baffled scientists and caused so much death and destruction.”

The grant, says Ndung’u, will also enable him to support younger scientists to develop their academic careers.

“These opportunities are like gold. I am hopeful that right here in Durban, we can generate new knowledge and make a significant contribution to developing an effective vaccine against HIV/Aids.”

Figures from the Aids Foundation of SA show that KwaZulu-Natal has the highest burden of HIV in the country – at 39.5 percent.

Ndung’u said that UKZN scientists had played a key role in the discovery that certain Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) molecules could partly protect against HIV and were now engaged in new research to understand the exact mechanisms.

“Trying to understand why some people control HIV without antiretroviral drugs has been an incredible journey involving many scientists and students,” he says.

Unrecognisable

“We are only now beginning to understand that some immune genes are able to target the invading virus, forcing it to change so that it won’t be recognised. During this process the virus is “crippled” or becomes less fit and less virulent, thus protecting the infected individual from developing Aids.”

The next “giant” step, he says, will be to understand additional protective mechanisms and how the virus compensates for the attacks being made on it by the immune system in individuals who eventually develop Aids.

Ultimately, says Ndung’u, researchers want to investigate whether it is possible to make a vaccine that mimics or improves the immune system’s capabilities of making the virus less virulent.

Ndung’u praised research colleagues and clinic staff for assisting his team with the work of identifying patients who had different rates of disease progression.

Harnessing this knowledge for the good of society, he says, and finding a vaccine that will mimic these protective responses will be a challenge.

“But we are ready for the long haul, and we have some gifted, creative and devoted young people determined to make a mark in this field,” he said.

Ndung’u was chosen as one of 28 recipients of the HHMI award from 800 applicants worldwide. - The Mercury


sign up
 
 

Comment Guidelines



  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.

     

Julius Mwenda, wrote

IOL Comments
07:55pm on 27 January 2012
IOL Comments

Its good news for hivaids suferers. But When can we start using it in Kenya mr. Ndung'u?

Report this

IOL Comments

Russell Travers, wrote

IOL Comments
04:14pm on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

I followed the lead posted by Anon suggesting a perusal of one Mike Smith's blog. I found it to be a completely useless and hate-filled vaccuum of despair. There was nothing there except for bigotted, useless rubbish written by sad old relics of an age gone by. Politically correct be damned! How about totally incorrect and out of focus nonsense dressed up as a losers view of the truth.

Report this

IOL Comments

Anonymous, wrote

IOL Comments
03:13pm on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

once again iol edits out comments that it thinks are not politically correct - thank goodness for sites like mike smith's blog out there ( careful now - the truth hurts)

Report this

IOL Comments

Enkosi, wrote

IOL Comments
02:45pm on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

@ Mlu I dont care if he is or not South African,as long he is a black man he is an African.@ Thumbi, my brother you r a blessing to the nation.

Report this

IOL Comments

Miss Marley, wrote

IOL Comments
02:43pm on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

So proud of this your doctor!!! @Give Me A Break...you're sad!

Report this

IOL Comments

BeeGee, wrote

IOL Comments
02:32pm on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

There is always light at the end of the tunnel.Struggle continues doc

Report this

IOL Comments

Mammekwa, wrote

IOL Comments
01:15pm on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

Great job Thumbi!

Report this

IOL Comments

Tandiwe, wrote

IOL Comments
11:58am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

Thank God...finally, someone with intellect and genuine interest in understanding the virus. None of this "testing" of vaginal creams etc. God Bless and I have faith... this makes sense. To the rest of South Africans, continue to abstain or use a condom.

Report this

IOL Comments

Russell Travers, wrote

IOL Comments
11:37am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

This is precisely what Mr Mbeki, that great African thinker and intellectual did not want. This South African victory in a battle against a wholly preventable disease is clearly a slap in the face for Mr Mbeki and the other self-interested acolytes who rallied to his denialist cause, espousing ideas of African supremacy and the vaunted African Renaissance. All of the fine words and theatrical posturings came to nothing, just further dense and inscrutable mutterings from a man wholly out of touch with reality. In the real Renaissance which gifted the world with true humanist and intellectual persuit we find the counter to precisely the sort of narrow-minded and Stalinist thinking expressed by him and other gifted intellectuals. Mr Mbeki must have had the knowledge at his disposal that at the time of the great plague in Europe in the late 1400,s almost two thirds of Europeans died during the ravages of that disease. One can only assume, that with that knowledge in mind, his pogrom, and it was a veritable attack due to denial, that a vast swath of the population of our country would die, leaving him and his followers at the top of the heap. This, demonstrably, is pure Stalinist reasoning. See what the Soviets did in the Ukraine in the 30's for an insight into the results of such high thinking and social engineering which caused the deaths of millions of innocent people. The victory achieved by Thumbi Ndungu and others on his team is a victory of world knowledge, not narrow minded, ethnocentric denialist thinking. People like Mr Mbeki should accept that narrow minded tribalist doctrines will fail and be seen for what they are - worthless rubbish.

Report this

IOL Comments

Deion, wrote

IOL Comments
11:36am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

Truly gifted.....and I hope an inspiration to all other young South Africans

Report this

IOL Comments

vkdk, wrote

IOL Comments
11:32am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

@Give Me A Break...You are an idiot. This scientist is understanding the virus and with time the global effort will combat it. When you get the disease you will be crying for a cure. Why arent you excited for us? I think the reason is you are incapable of happiness or plain dum...Go back to grazing mosquitoes...

Report this

IOL Comments

ZuluGirl, wrote

IOL Comments
11:14am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

Unnecessary comment Mlu. There's always one!

Report this

IOL Comments

shaido, wrote

IOL Comments
10:43am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

Till we find the cure, aluta continua! Congratulations

Report this

IOL Comments

Anonymous, wrote

IOL Comments
10:32am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

good work man and good luck with your research because people are dying out there

Report this

IOL Comments

Desmond-ct, wrote

IOL Comments
10:19am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

It is these sort of stories that should make the headlines and not those of greedy, ineffectively and squabbling wannabe politicians. Congratulations and keep on doing the good work. We salute you ALL

Report this

IOL Comments

T2k, wrote

IOL Comments
10:09am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

We need young gifted Afrikans like you. Who provide solutions and don't make themselves part of the problem. May God increase you in scientific knowledge and revelation and may your research reach a favourable conclusion for the whole world in Jesus' name, amen.

Report this

IOL Comments

Anonymous, wrote

IOL Comments
10:06am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

give that man a bells...

Report this

IOL Comments

WTF, wrote

IOL Comments
09:49am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

Congratulations on a fine achievement, and good luck with your research!

Report this

IOL Comments

naked eyes, wrote

IOL Comments
09:45am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

The Difference between Govt and intellectuals. Govt. find excuses intellectuals find solution not ginger, garlic and sweet potatoe or a shower and even denouncing the fact of the existence of matter. Your are the son of the soil of this country lead us from darkness to light whilst we pray for these buffoons in politics.

Report this

IOL Comments

Mbhekaphansi, wrote

IOL Comments
09:43am on 25 January 2012
IOL Comments

From the time i worked at UKZN i know that this guy had a lot of respect from his other world renowned researchers,he's a brilliant young researcher. Best of luck to him and his team and hopefully he'll inspire more of our doctors to specialise in his field of virology.

Report this

IOL Comments

Showing items 1 - 20 of 33

Join us on

IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks IOL-Social networks

Business Directory