SANTHE trainees win awards at international immunology symposium

Sunday, 10 September, 2017

Award winners pictured from left to right: Amanda Ardain (AHRI), Sharon Khuzwayo (SANTHE/AHRI), Rabiah Fardoos (AHRI), Alveera Singh (SANTHE/AHRI), Lerato Ndlovu (SANTHE/AHRI), Doty A’chieng (SANTHE/UKZN).The IUIS-IDA-SANTHE (International Union of Immunological Societies - Infectious Diseases in Africa/SANTHE) Immunology Primer and IDA Symposium was held in Gordon’s Bay, Cape Town, South Africa, from 1-9th September this year. Attended by 29 students from most SANTHE sites, as well from The Gambia, Benin, Uganda, Morocco, Malawi, Tanzania, the course focussed on strategies of immune escape in HIV, TB and malaria. Emphasis was also placed on grant writing skills which saw students grouped together to write proposals and four SANTHE trainees walking away with prizes for their efforts.

SANTHE trainees Alveera Singh (Post-doctoral), Sharon Khuzwayo (PhD) and Lerato Ndlovu (PhD) - all based at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) - as well as Doty A’chieng (PhD), based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) - presented posters and talks on their research. Together the group won, "Best Grant Writing Idea" for a proposal titled, "MAIT depletion in the blood of macaques in response to SIV: to understand the mechanism by which peripheral MAIT (Mucosal Associated Invariant T cells) cells are depleted in SIV infection."

Singh then won 2nd place for her poster presentation on, "How HIV infected children have life-long depletion of all circulating Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs), but respond to infection through tissue resident ILCs."

Ndlovu won a 3rd for her oral presentation, "Using neutrophil phenotype as a marker of TB disease and treatment response." Her talk focused on using neutrophils to identify a more sensitive and accurate means of measuring the patient’s response to treatment as a proxy for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) burden.

Course Director, Professor Clive Gray, a Principal Investigator at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town (UCT), commented on the course: “This week-long course was a festival of immunology covering areas of immune escape strategies by TB, HIV and malaria as well as immune tolerance mechanisms leading to autoimmunity and dysregulation. We had a wonderful Faculty of 16 International and African experts impart their cutting-edge knowledge and interacting with the students throughout. This was our 7th IDA Symposium and the 10th year of running such a course for up-and-coming immunologists in Africa. By linking with SANTHE, we have been able to enhance our reach to young scientists throughout the Continent and impart the skills necessary for young scholars to become our future scientific leaders.”