New South Africa Institute to Tackle HIV and TB

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa, which claims the highest AIDS prevalence in the world, has teamed up with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Maryland to develop a research center focused on the twin scourges of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV. When HIV and TB infections coexist, it often comes with dire consequences—TB is the leading killer of people with HIV/AIDS, according to Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) will receive US$60 million over 10 years from HHMI—$20 million to establish K-RITH and $4 million a year for 10 years to support research projects. The UKZN is committing about $11 million for infrastructure costs. The new institute will be housed within the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in Durban. K-RITH will also be adjoined to the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, which houses several AIDS research groups, including the Human Pathogenesis Programme headed by Bruce Walker, an HHMI investigator, and the Center for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, led by Salim Abdool Karim.

K-RITH will initially focus on four research areas: the development of rapid and more effective diagnostic tests for TB; characterizing drug-resistant strains of TB; analyzing immune responses to TB, particularly those seen in people also infected with HIV; and the study of recurrent TB infections in HIV-infected individuals. K-RITH will also be involved in testing candidate vaccines, both for TB and HIV, and researchers hope the new institute will become a magnet for young African scientists who want to base their laboratory work there but are hindered by the lack of research facilities and funding.