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South African Immunology Society Meeting Cape Town, 9 to 11 December 2009

The re-launch of the South African Immunological Society in conjunction with CIDRI took place at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, Cape Town.

The meeting attracted excellent support from the local immunology community, both academic and commercial.

The delegates were treated to a superb line up of speakers whose presentations covered a surprisingly broad spectrum of research areas. These ranged from presentations on basic immunology to locally relevant presentations on TB and HIV research.

Highlights among these talks included research carried out locally such as that presented by Frank Brombacher (University of Cape Town) on his work on IL-4Ra and Gordon Brown’s (Universities of Aberdeen and Cape Town) work on fungal immunology.

International speakers who gave particularly memorable presentations included David Schneider’s (University of California Stanford) insights into underlying immunological principles using Drosophila, Paul Garside’s (University of Glasgow) work on in vivo imaging and Jo-Ann Flynn’s (University of Pittsburgh) work on latent TB.

Excellent short talks were given for which Christine Jones and Alykhan Vira were awarded prizes.

A special thanks goes to the organisers Deborah and Jolandi of UCT for an exceptionally smoothly run event and to the management of the Vineyard Hotel for providing such an excellent venue.

The next meeting will be in Gauteng in December and we are sure it will be another memorable event.

With thanks for this report by:
Dr William Horsnell
Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine
Division of Immunology
Health Science Faculty; Medical School
Werhner Beit Building; Lower Ground Floor
University of Cape Town
Cape Town 7925
South Africa

Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust 2009 Research Conference

The Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Research Group held its annual conference at Club Makokola on the beautiful southern shore of Lake Malawi from 30th August to 2nd September 2009. This year the UCT Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative (CIDRI) partially sponsored the meeting and also offered bursaries to UCT Faculty of Health Sciences students and staff to attend the meeting. Members of the CIDRI Steering Committee and its International Scientific Advisory Board were also invited. This meeting was an opportunity for young researchers to present their research projects.

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The delegates came from Malawi, Liverpool, Cape Town, the Wellcome Trust and the USA.

CIDRI awarded bursaries to Dr Brian Abel and Dr Tom Scriba from SATVI, Dr William Horsnell from ICGEB, Dr Joe Jarvis from Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Gama Bandawe from Medical Virology and Rebecca Tadokera, Dr Tolu Oni and Dr Suzaan Marais from the IDM. Dr Helen McIlleron from Clinical Pharmacology and Dr Mpiko Ntsekhe from Cardiology in the Dept of Medicine. Professor Robert J Wilkinson and Kathy Wood, the Director and Manager of CIDRI, respectively, were also present. They were joined by Dr Liz Corbett, a CIDRI Steering group member based in Malawi and Dr Anthony Scott and Dr Laura Via both of whom serve on the CIDRI ISAB.

Excellent plenary sessions were presented by:

Dr David Lalloo
University of Liverpool
Cryptococcal Meningitis
Dr Laura Via NIAID, USA On Similarities between Rabbits, Marmosets, Monkeys and Men
Dr David Russell Cornell University Mycobacterium: Sensing and responding to the intracellular environment
Dr Neil French Karonga, Malawi Understanding and controlling common co-infections in African HIV
Prof Janet Hemingway New operational tools for the monitoring and evaluation of malaria control programmes
Dr Gerry Davies What is translational Pharmacometrics?
Dr Ken Maleta Nutrition supplementation for infection prevention

Topics covered during the sessions included:

  • tuberculosis
  • HIV infection
  • non typhoidal salmonella infections
  • parasitic infection
  • pneumococcal disease
  • TB vaccines
  • pharmacokinetics
  • malaria.

Topic specific breakout sessions were also held during the lunch breaks and after the daily sessions. These were well attended and covered the research topics of:

  • Big Questions in Malaria Research
  • Public Health Research in TB/HIV Control
  • Priorities for Non-Communicable Disease Research
  • Whole Genome sequencing for Infectious Diseases Research
  • In-Patient surveillance
  • HIV and the Lung
  • PKPD trials, tribulations and collaborations.

To relax at the end of the day, the delegates were taken on a tranquil sunset cruise across the lake to Devil's Island which is home to prolific birdlife. The magnificence of the fish eagles was admired as they skimmed over the water catching small fish. On return everyone was treated to a perfect sunset!

On the final evening of the conference, an outdoor romantically-lighted dinner was arranged and Malawian dancers and acrobats entertained the delegates. This was followed by dancing well into the night, to music dee-jay'd untiringly by Danielle de Clercq, the Program Manager at MLW.

The success of this meeting was greatly due to the efforts of Prof Rob Heyderman and Mirriam Khonje from MLW.

Research symposium of the International Network for the Study of HIV-associated IRIS (INSHI), Saturday 18 July 2009

The Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative hosted an INSHI research symposium on the morning of 18 July 2009, immediately prior to the International AIDS Society conference that was held in Cape Town. The symposium was held at the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine of UCT.

INSHI is an open network of international researchers in the field of the HIV-associated immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) that was formed at a meeting in Kampala, Uganda, in 2006. The aim of INSHI is to provide a forum for members to share research findings, develop standardised definitions and research approaches and foster collaborations.

The symposium was chaired by Bob Colebunders (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp), whose efforts led to the initial founding of INSHI, and Robert Wilkinson, director of CIDRI. There were 12 presenters who between them presented research that has been conducted on five continents relating to the epidemiology, clinical presentation, management and immunopathogenesis of IRIS. Presentations covered a range of IRIS-related conditions: cryptococcosis, tuberculosis, BCG disease and Kaposi's sarcoma. The research symposium was attended by 80 people and delegates engaged enthusiastically in discussion during the question times and the light lunch that was held afterwards.

Click here for the programme of speakers.

TBM team lays groundwork for long-term collaboration

tbm team
Delegates who attended the TBM Workshop from 8 to 10 May 2009 at the Spier Wine Estate.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major health problem in resource poor countries and South Africa is especially severely affected. Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is a devastating form of TB that can result in death and disability in many patients. Due to the high prevalence of TB, doctors in some hospitals in Cape Town are faced with these complicated patients on a daily basis. To address questions of the pathology, clinical features and management an expert TBM workshop was convened at the Spier conference centre in Stellenbosch from 8 to 10 May 2009. The workshop was organised by Dr Suzaan Marais and funded by the UCT Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative, which is directed by Professor Robert J Wilkinson. Thirteen international experts presented their research findings to 41 invited participants. Prominent speakers included Professors Johan Schoeman and Peter Donald from the Department of Paediatrics, Stellenbosch University. Both have dedicated more than 20 years to the management of affected children and are considered amongst peers to be world leaders in the field of TBM. Also in attendance were Drs Guy Thwaites and Estee Torok who have conducted large treatment trials in adult patients with TBM in Vietnam, and Professors Usha Misra and Kameshwar Prasad who have extensively researched TBM in India. Research conducted at UCT presented at the meeting include a descriptive study of paradoxical neurologic immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) by Dr Dominique Pepper, and a randomised placebo-controlled trial of Prednisone for the treatment of TB IRIS by Dr Graeme Meintjes, the relevance of strain variation in TBM by Professor Mark Nicol, challenges in the neurosurgical management of TBM by Professor Graham Fieggen and brain ischemia and monitoring in TBM by Dr Anthony Figaji. Relatively few research studies are conducted in patients with TBM worldwide and comparative interpretation of the published Delegates who attended the TBM Workshop from 8 to 10 May 2009 at the Spier Wine Estate. Studies are complicated by the lack of a uniform clinical case definition. One of the primary aims of the workshop was therefore to devise a consensus clinical case definition of TBM to be utilised internationally in research studies. This will be submitted for publication to a peer-reviewed international journal in due course. There was also consensus that future meetings dedicated to TBM are needed. Another positive consequence of this workshop will therefore be the establishment of an international working group on TBM that will periodically meet to exchange knowledge and discuss research questions.

Dr Suzaan Marais and Prof Robert J Wilkinson