Ndung'u Lab
The goal of our laboratory is to understand immune mechanisms against HIV and tuberculosis, and pathogen evasion of immune responses as a pathway to vaccine development.
HIV | HIV/TB Co-infection | Vaccines | Host/Pathogen Interactions

Vaccines offer one of the most effective public health strategies against diseases. Vaccines are generally safe, highly effective and affordable.  Unfortunately, there are no effective vaccines against HIV or TB and therefore the control of these diseases in resource-limited settings is problematic.  Our research goals are to understand how the immune system fights off persistent infections such HIV and TB and to how the pathogens in turn evade or adapt to continuous immune pressure.  We also study non-immune host/pathogen interactions that may explain heterogeneity of clinical outcomes following exposure to the pathogen or infection.  Ultimately, we hope to use this knowledge to aid rational vaccine or therapeutics design against these two major killer diseases as well as other pathogens. 

Our overarching goal is to understand how HIV and TB are able to persist and replicate in the face of a hostile host immune system.  Our laboratory focuses on individuals who remain HIV negative despite exposure to the virus and those infected who achieve some level of viral control without the help of antiretroviral therapies. These individuals may hold the key to vaccine development or novel therapies.  Our approach is to understand how innate and adaptive immune responses may prevent people from getting infected or lead to durable viral control in those already infected.  We also interrogate the mechanisms that ultimately lead to loss of viral control and disease progression.  In the laboratory, we utilize techniques in virology, immunology, molecular biology and genetics to help us understand the complex interaction between the virus and the host.  We place emphasis on biomedical research excellence, innovative thinking and capacity building for scientific discoveries likely to benefit resource-limited settings and address Africa’s public health problems. 

Meet the Team

PhD Scholar
Laboratory Technician
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Research Associate
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Masters Student
Masters Student

Lab News & Research Opportunities

K-RITH postdoctoral fellow Dr Daniel Muema has been awarded a freestanding National Research Foundation (NRF) fellowship to pursue his work on HIV’s impact on the immune system. 
If someone who has TB coughs in a room full of people, why is it that only some of the people in the room will get infected?  And of those who get infected, why will only some become ill but others never be bothered by TB? 
These are some of the questions that Emily Wong, a K-RITH Research Associate and Instructor in Medicine at...
A R153-million grant ($11.2-million) to fund a ground-breaking, collaborative TB and HIV scientific research programme has been awarded to K-RITH investigator,...
K-RITH Research Associate Dr Emily Wong will be giving a short talk at the Immune Profiling in Health and Disease conference in Seattle, USA. 
She will be speaking on ‘Immune profiling...
K-RITH investigator Dr Thumbi Ndung’u will co-host an exploratory seminar at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, in October. 


He will be speaking on 'HIV vaccine...

Publications & Presentations

Selection of an HLA-C*03:04-Restricted HIV-1 p24 Gag Sequence Variant Is Associated with Viral Escape from KIR2DL3+ Natural Killer Cells: Data from an Observational Cohort in South Africa.
Angelique Hölzemer, C. T., Camilo A. Jimenez Cruz, Wilfredo F. Garcia-Beltran, Jonathan M. Carlson, Nienke van Teijlingen, Jaclyn Mann, Manjeetha Jaggernath, Seung-gu Kang, Christian Körner, Amy Chung, Jamie L. Schafer, David T. Evans, Galit Alter, Bruce D. Walker, Philip J. Goulder, Mary Carrington, Pia Hartmann, Thomas Pertel, Ruhong Zhou, Thumbi Ndung’u, Marcus Altfeld. PLoS Med. 2015 Nov 17;12(11):e1001900. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001900. eCollection 2015.
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Magnitude and Kinetics of CD8+ T Cell Activation during Hyperacute HIV Infection Impact Viral Set Point.
Ndhlovu, Z. M., Kamya, P., Mewalal, N., Kloverpris, H. N., Nkosi, T., Pretorius, K., Laher, F., Ogunshola, F., Chopera, D., Shekhar, K., Ghebremichael, M., Ismail, N., Moodley, A., Malik, A., Leslie, A., Goulder, P. J., Buus, S., Chakraborty, A., Dong, K., Ndung'u, T., & Walker, B. D. Immunity. 2015 Sep 15;43(3):591-604. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2015.08.012. Epub 2015 Sep 8.
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HIV Disrupts Human T Cells That Target Mycobacterial Glycolipids.
Kasprowicz, V. O., Cheng, T. Y., Ndung'u, T., Sunpath, H., Moody, D. B., & Kasmar, A. G. J Infect Dis. 2015 Sep 15. pii: jiv455. [Epub ahead of print]
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Epigenetic mechanisms, T-cell activation, and CCR5 genetics interact to regulate T-cell expression of CCR5, the major HIV-1 coreceptor.
Gornalusse, G. G., Mummidi, S., Gaitan, A. A., Jimenez, F., Ramsuran, V., Picton, A., Rogers, K., Manoharan, M. S., Avadhanam, N., Murthy, K. K., Martinez, H., Molano Murillo, A., Chykarenko, Z. A., Hutt, R., Daskalakis, D., Shostakovich-Koretskaya, L., Abdool Karim, S., Martin, J. N., Deeks, S. G., Hecht, F., Sinclair, E., Clark, R. A., Okulicz, J., Valentine, F. T., Martinson, N., Tiemessen, C. T., Ndung'u, T., Hunt, P. W., He, W., & Ahuja, S. K. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Aug 25;112(34):E4762-71. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1423228112. Epub 2015 Aug 11.
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Sex Differences in Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation in Pediatric HIV Infection
Masahiko Mori, Emily Adland, Paolo Paioni, Alice Swordy, Luisa Mori, Leana Laker,Maximillian Muenchhoff, Philippa C. Matthews, Gareth Tudor-Williams, Nora Lavandier, Anriette van Zyl, Jacob Hurst, Bruce D. Walker, Thumbi Ndung'u, Andrew Prendergast, Philip Goulder, Pieter Jooste PLoS One 2015 Jul 7;10(7):e0131591
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Implementation of Couples’ Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing Services in Durban, South Africa
William Kilembe, Kristin M. Wall, Mammekwa Mokgoro, Annie Mwaanga, Elisabeth Dissen, Miriam Kamusoko, Hilda Phiri, Jean Sakulanda, Jonathan Davitte, Tarylee Reddy, Mark Brockman, Thumbi Ndung’u, Susan Allen BMC Public Health 2015 Jul 2;15(1):601
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