Zaza Ndhlovu

Dr Zaza Ndhlovu works on cellular immune responses to HIV-1, with the ultimate goal of finding a phenotypic target for an HIV vaccine. His research programme includes studies geared towards understanding initial events that contribute to immune dysfunction and subsequent disease progression. He uses excisional lymph node samples from acute and chronic HIV infected patients to interrogate how brief exposure to HIV influences induction and durability of protective immune responses.

Zaza received his PhD in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology from Johns Hopkins University, and did his postdoctoral training at Harvard University. During this time, he studied CD8+ T cell responses in a special group of individuals capable of spontaneous HIV suppression in the absence of antiretroviral therapy – called ‘elite controllers’. He made significant discoveries about key features of HIV-specific CD8+ T cell subsets that are able to inhibit viral replication and drive immune escape in elite controllers.

After securing a Faculty position at Harvard University, he decided to relocate his research program to South Africa. “I reasoned that incidence rates of close to 10% per year in KwaZulu-Natal would enable me to address unique aspects of the host immune response to HIV that could not be undertaken where I had trained, while at the same time I could contribute to scientific capacity building needed to meet current and future African medical challenges,” Zaza said. The move brought him to the epicenter of the HIV epidemic and has allowed him access to well pedigreed acute infection samples.

Zaza’s academic appointments include member of Faculty at AHRI, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Adjunct Faculty at University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is also an HHMI International Research Scholar.

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Click here for a full list of publications.

Zaza Ndhlovu

Ndhlovu Group

The Ndhlovu Group focuses on understanding how immune regulation in the lymph node microenvironment affects HIV-1 persistence in ART treated aviremic patients, with the goal of gaining new insights that can inform novel HIV cure strategies.

Meet the Team

Tiza Ng’uni - Ndhlovu Group

Tiza Ng’uni

Postdoctoral fellow

Tiza Lucy Ng’uni received her PhD degree from the University of the Western Cape. Her project evaluated the anticancer and antimicrobial properties of South African medicinal plants with the sole purpose of finding alternative treatment options to combat drug resistance. She is currently working on two projects in HIV immunology. The first project is to investigate the role of regulatory CD8+ T cells in lymph node biology. The second project is to manipulate epigenetic regulatory genes that are involved in the downregulation of CD8+ T cell effector functions in the lymph nodes during HIV infection.

Sushma Boppana  - Ndhlovu Group

Sushma Boppana

PhD student

Sushma is completing her PhD studies with Dr Paul Goepfert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is currently a visiting student in Dr Zaza Ndhlovu's lab. Her research has primarily focused on CD8 T-cell responses in the context of HIV-1 vaccination and infection. She is particularly interested in CD8 T-cell cross-reactivity, or the ability of CD8 T cells to cross-recognize multiple variants of a given epitope.

Bongiwe Mahlobo  - Ndhlovu Group

Bongiwe Mahlobo

Laboratory technician

Bongiwe Mahlobo received her Master’s from the University of Pretoria and her PhD from UKZN. Her primary research focused on the in silico functional characterization of hypothetical proteins. Bongiwe's PhD in HIV immunology focused on understanding the role of follicular CD4+ T cells in lymphoid tissues of early treated HIV-1 infected individuals.

Carol Chasara - Ndhlovu Group

Carol Chasara

Phd student

Caroline Chasara received her Master of Science (MSc) Degree in Biotechnology at the University of Zimbabwe. Her research dissertation focused on the characterization of grass pollen allergens in Zimbabwe and optimisation of allergy diagnosis. Her PhD study seeks to identify key biomarkers for HIV infected cells in lymphoid tissues that could be selectively targeted for elimination in HIV infected individual’s on suppressive HIV therapy. Her findings will contribute to novel strategies for achieving sterilizing HIV cure or prolonged remission.

Thandeka Nkosi  - Ndhlovu Group

Thandeka Nkosi

Laboratory technologist

Thandeka Nkosi obtained her Master’s degree in medical sciences from UKZN. Her project showed that very early antiretroviral (ART) initiation is associated with a mitigated but measurable CD8 T cell response that is functionally competent and durable. She also previously worked as a research assistant at the HIV Pathogenesis Programme. Thandeka’s main responsibilities at AHRI include overseeing the day-to-day running of the Ndhlovu lab, conducting lab bench work, training new students and staff, and lab inventory management.

Mzabalazo 'Mza' Nsimbi - Ndhlovu Group

Mzabalazo 'Mza' Nsimbi

Laboratory technician

Mzabalazo Nsimbi obtained his Honours degree in Biochemistry from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is currently completing his master’s degree which is investigating the inhibitory effect of selected bioactive compounds on Plasmodium falciparum hypoxanthine-guanine-xanthine phosphoribosyltransferase. Mzabalazo is an intern in the Ndhlovu lab, a recipient of a SANTHE Fellowship. His project seeks to characterize the role of follicular CD4+ T cells in HIV persistence in the lymph nodes of HIV infected individuals who are on antiretroviral therapy.

Selected Recent Publications

Laher, F., Ranasinghe, S., Porichis, F., Mewalal, N., Pretorius, K., Ismail, N., … Ndhlovu, Z. M. (2017).. HIV Controllers Exhibit Enhanced Frequencies of Major Histocompatibility Complex Class II Tetramer(+) Gag-Specific CD4(+) T Cells in Chronic Clade C HIV-1 Infection.. Journal of Virology, 91(7), e02477-16.

Ndhlovu, Z., Kamya, P., Mewalal, N., Kløverpris, H. N., Nkosi, T., Pretorius, K., … Walker, B. D. (2015). Magnitude and kinetics of CD8+ T cell activation during hyperacute HIV infection impacts viral set point. Immunity, 43(3), 591–604.

Ndhlovu, Z. M., Chibnik, L. B., Proudfoot, J., Vine, S., McMullen, A., Cesa, K., … Kaufmann, D. E. (2013) . High-dimensional immunomonitoring models of HIV-1–specific CD8 T-cell responses accurately identify subjects achieving spontaneous viral control. . Blood, 121(5), 801–811. .

Chen, H., Ndhlovu, Z. M., Liu, D., Porter, L. C., Fang, J. W., Darko, S., … Walker, B. D. (2012). T cell receptor clonotypes modulate the protective effect of HLA class I alleles in HIV-1 infection.. Nature Immunology, 13(7), 691–700. .

Ndhlovu, Z. M., Oelke, M., Schneck, J. P., & Griffin, D. E. (2010). Dynamic regulation of functionally distinct virus-specific T cells. . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(8), 3669–3674..