Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) PhD students have won prizes at the 6th South African Immunology Society (SAIS) meeting, held in Gordon’s Bay in the Western Cape recently.

SAIS is an open society for all South African immunologists and anyone doing immunology-based research in South Africa, with the aim of growing basic, applied and translational immunology in the country. This year’s conference saw diverse talks on immune tolerance, allergy, autoimmunity, primary immunodeficiencies and infectious diseases. The meeting was well attended by international leaders in the field of immunology.

AHRI PhD students Amanda Ardain, Sharon Khuzwayo, Rabiah Fardoos, Lerato Ndlovu, Alveera Singh and SANTHE trainee Doty A’chieng 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’.

Amanda won best oral presentation for her talk which focussed on insights into the involvement of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in the lungs of human TB patients. She presented data showing that these cells are being modulated in and participate in the immune response to TB infection – a previously unknown aspect of the infection.

Other AHRI winners were Alveera Singh, who won second best poster presentation for her poster focusing on how HIV infected children have life-long depletion of all circulating Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs), but respond to infection through tissue resident ILCs.

Lerato Ndlovu won third best oral presentation for her talk titled ‘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.

“One of my highlights was a talk by Timothy Ray Brown (the ‘Berlin patient‘) who spoke on his personal experience and his hopes of a cure for HIV,” said Amanda. “All in all, it was an intense and busy few days but I’m sure we are all in agreement that it was an invaluable experience and I look forward to next year’s meeting.”

Top photo (l-r): Amanda Ardain, Sharon Khuzwayo, Rabiah Fardoos, Alveera Singh, Lerato Ndlovu, Doty A’chieng 

By: Phumla Ngcobo