KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV
The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB-HIV (K-RITH) is a basic science institute whose mission is to conduct outstanding scientific research on tuberculosis and HIV and translate the findings into new tools to control these diseases. In addition to its research mission, K-RITH is committed to motivating young scientists to address the crises of TB and HIV by expanding basic science education opportunities in southern Africa as well as strengthening the research capabilities of scientists across the continent.
TB and HIV Research at K-RITH
Research at K-RITH is focussed on the basic science of TB and HIV biology and pathology, as well as the host response to these infections. The laboratory bench is the starting point to gain a deeper understanding of human biology and disease. Topics of special interest include the identification of new biomarkers and the development of new diagnostics; exploring the potential of microfluidic devices for research and diagnosis; understanding the evolution of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and characterising the human immune response to TB and HIV.
While the work at K-RITH emphasises laboratory-based studies, these are coordinated with multiple teams of local clinical collaborators, allowing K-RITH to bring basic science approaches to bear on human biology. Some of the unanswered questions under investigation include: why are some people susceptible to TB, while others remain resistant despite widespread exposure; how can we better understand the response of the human immune system to TB and HIV and exploit these responses to better fight these diseases; and how can we further shorten TB diagnostics and treatment times?
Research at K-RITH is led by a team of scientists, each of whom heads up their own lab with specific research goals. Click here to read about our Investigators and their labs.
The institute is housed in the K-RITH Tower Building, a state-of-the-art research facility based on the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine campus in Durban, South Africa. The building can accommodate six to nine large scientific research groups working in both standard laboratories and specialised biosafety level 3 (BSL3) facilities. In this way, K-RITH brings cutting-edge scientific technology to the heart of the TB and HIV co-epidemic in KwaZulu-Natal, making it an important place for scientific discovery and translation of research into diagnostics and treatments.
K-RITH collaborates with UKZN and other academic and clinical institutions in South Africa and around the world. We work with our research colleagues at the Nelson R Mandela Medical School, including investigators with the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), the HIV Pathogenesis Programme, and the Africa Centre.
The recently established Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence, led by K-RITH investigator Thumbi Ndung’u, links 12 partner institutions and four main research sites in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia and aims to expand over time. The research sites include the Rwanda/Zambia HIV Research Group, the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Collaborative Research Programme in Kenya and the Botswana Harvard Aids Institute. We also collaborate with researchers at the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Alabama, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Harvard University, the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, and the Max Planck Institute.
K-RITH was founded in 2009 through a ground-breaking collaboration between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and UKZN, with public sector support through the Technology Innovation Agency, the biotechnology investment arm of the South African government. It was formed as part of a response to the 2005-2006 extensively drug-resistant TB crisis in Tugela Ferry, and the realisation that there was an urgent need to bring basic science research right to the epicentre of the HIV and TB co-epidemic.more about K-RITH’s history
Malegapuru William Makgoba, former vice chancellor and principal of UKZN, was an instrumental force behind the creation of K-RITH.read his remarks here
Adriaan Willem Sturm served as interim director of K-RITH. He is the former dean of UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine. During his career as a medical microbiologist, Sturm has studied tuberculosis, HIV, and sexually transmitted diseases. He was a leading scientist investigating the first outbreak of XDR-TB in KwaZulu-Natal and a principal investigator on the project that sequenced the genetic code of that pathogen.
Salim S. Abdool Karim is director of CAPRISA. A clinical infectious disease epidemiologist, Abdool Karim has done research on tuberculosis and HIV treatment that shaped the current therapeutic approach to treating co-infected patients. He is a co-inventor of part of South Africa’s first HIV subtype C vaccine and led the first HIV vaccine trial in South Africa.
William R. Jacobs Jr. is a professor of microbiology, immunology and genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Jacobs is an expert in tuberculosis and other diseases in the mycobacteria family. His research uses bacterial viruses – called mycobacteriophages - to introduce foreign DNA into the bacteria that cause TB. This work has revolutionized scientists’ understanding of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Bruce D. Walker is the Director of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard University and an Investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Walker’s research focuses on how the immune system controls chronic viral infections, with an emphasis on HIV. He leads an international effort to understand how rare people can fight off HIV infection without treatment.