In 2005, researchers in South Africa came face to face with one of their deadliest fears—the emergence of a virulent strain of drug-resistant tuberculosis that quickly killed nearly every person it infected.
More alarming still, the outbreak surfaced in KwaZulu-Natal province, an epicentre of the AIDS pandemic that had hospitals filled with people whose immune systems were already decimated by HIV. As the shocking news made headlines worldwide, Tugela Ferry, South Africa, became ground zero for the lethal convergence of HIV and a new killer, extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB).
The long-term danger posed by that outbreak helped convince the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to join forces to create the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB-HIV (K-RITH) in Durban. The institutions jointly announced the launch of K-RITH in 2009.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring basic science right to the epicentre of the HIV and TB co-epidemic,” says William Bishai, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who took the helm as K-RITH’s first permanent director in September 2010.
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