Bonisile Luthuli

Phone Number: 
+27 (0) 31 260 4174

Bonisile Luthuli

Trainee Type: 

Bonisile Luthuli’s desire to pursue scientific research in HIV dates back to her teenage years in Dundee, in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where she witnessed first-hand, disease devastation as a result to HIV and AIDS. It was then that she decided to commit herself to understanding the disease and finding solutions. She excelled at school and attended the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, graduating in 2011 with a double degree in chemistry and biochemistry.  She then chose to do her Honours in biochemistry in order to focus on understanding human biology to fight HIV. Thereafter, she joined a microfluidics laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) as a Masters student. There she designed and created a microdialyser chip which is a physical system for cultivating TB that mimics the growth environment of a macrophage. The microdialyser allows for the careful addition of drug cocktails and removal of waste products from a growing population of TB cells without disturbing the cells during drug susceptibility testing. This is not achievable using conventional TB culturing systems. The microdialyser became the first African patent on microfluidics. Using the microdialyser chip, Luthuli demonstrated for the first time that the susceptibility of mycobacterial cells to rifampicin varies depending on the size of the growth chamber. This suggested that drug susceptibility in a test tube may not necessarily translate to susceptibility in vivo. Since TB is fueled by immune compromise due to HIV, Luthuli realised that although studying TB is important, the most critical outcomes rest in finding comprehensive solutions to HIV itself. It was then that she joined the Ndung’u laboratory at AHRI. Here she is studying the characteristics of transmitted/founder viruses.