Office: Falmouth 3.27 (entrance 2, use lift to floor 3)
A key aspect of the Division of Immunology is the study of Paediatric immunity. Infants are considered to be immunologically “immature” but in fact they may have immune systems that are capable of mature responses but are actively suppressed. Understanding infant immunology is important in the development of vaccines, for example, HIV vaccines, for infants. Likewise, understanding the factors influencing the immunology of adolescent genital tract will inform preventative interventions for this age group.
An example of an ongoing study is the INFANT (INnate Factors Associated with Nursing Transmission) study, an international collaborative study taking place in Cape Town and in Jos in Nigeria, and funded by the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative/Canadian Institutes for Health Research. The study aims to find out what protects babies who are exclusively breastfed by their HIV-positive mothers from HIV infection versus infants who receive mixed feeding – breast and formula. The study investigates both the composition of breast milk as well as what happens in the immune systems of the babies. The overall goal is to decrease HIV transmission but also to make formula feeding safer. Another outcome of the project is to look at how bottle feeding and HIV exposure affect the immune system response to vaccinations. The study site in Cape Town is Khayelitsha and mothers are followed for a year to 18 months with study visits coinciding with routine clinic visits. A sub study being conducted by the University of Stellenbosch is examining the behavioural and cultural issues involved in choices around breast versus formula feeding.
The INFANT study examines the innate, adaptive and mucosal immune responses against HIV-1 in infants with the aim of developing a human model to understand correlates of immune protection.
Other projects include:
Assessing feeding practices, immune activation, and HIV risk in African infants.