Cellular Immunology

 

The MMRC Immunology department has been established in 2002/2003 in a collaborative effort between the MMRC, the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich and the US Military HIV Research Program. The main objective was to set up a state-of-the art cellular immunology laboratory for immunogenicity studies during HIV vaccine trials and to train and support young Tanzanian scientists with genuine interest in the field of Infection & Immunity.

The laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to perform polychromatic Flow Cytometry, including 5-functional intracellular cytokine staining, 8-colour immunophenotyping, cytometric bead arrays and different IGRAs (in house ELISPOT, Quantiferon, TB-SPOT), which allow to perform sophisticated cellular immunology research. The laboratory has the capacity to also assess humoral immune responses (ELISA). The Immunology Laboratory is associated with a large PBMC processing section, allowing a high throughput of samples. This laboratory is also closely linked with the Molecular diagnostic laboratory, which specialises in the detection of different pathogens such as different helmith and malaria species, HPV and Herpes viruses by using advanced technologies (PCR, genotyping assays, rapid test kits) to perform molecular/genetic analysis. 


The laboratory is currently involved in immunogenicity testing during a phase 2 HIV vaccine Trial, evaluation of TB diagnostics, and furthermore focuses on basic research, studying the interplay between different infectious pathogens, such as HIV, Human Papilloma Viruses, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and helminths with the human immune system.

These studies have led to the identification of important immune correlates of protection from HIV disease progression and provide a potential mechanism for the greatly increased susceptibility of HIV-infected subjects to develop active Tuberculosis.

 

Current areas of research:
     1.    Evaluating the immunogenicity of HIV vaccine candidates during clinical trials.
     2.    Characterization of the HIV- and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB)-specific T cell responses and identification of immune correlates of immune protection
     3.    Immune modulation by Helminth infections in relation to HIV susceptibility, pathogenesis and disease progression.
     4.    Helminth infection and Allergies
     5.    Evaluation of new diagnostic tools for Tuberculosis
     6.    Characterization of HPV-specific adaptive immunity and identification of correlates of HPV viral clearance and persistence

Current Team members:
     Dr. Mkunde Chachage, PhD, Supervisor
     Dr. Asli Bauer, PhD, Supervisor
     Antelmo Haule, BSc (Hons), Section Supervisor
     Maria Mwakatima, Research Scientist
     Lwitiho Sudi, Research Scientist
     Jacqueline Mhidze, Research Scientist
     Jonathan Mnkai, Research Scientist
     Prisca Mviombo, Laboratory technician
     Wolfram Mwalongo, Laboratory Technician
     Dr. Christof Geldmacher, PhD, LMU, Scientific advisor

Selected scientific publications

  1. Assessment of the novel T-cell activation marker-tuberculosis assay for diagnosis of active tuberculosis in children: a prospective proof-of-concept study. Portevin et al. Lancet. Infect. Dis. 2014;3099(14): 1–8
  2. Helminth-associated systemic immune activation and HIV co-receptor expression: Response to Albendazole/Praziquantel treatment. Chachage et al. PLoS Negl. Trop. Dis. 2014;8(3):e2755
  3. Preferential infection and depletion of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB)-specific CD4 T cells after HIV-1 infection. Geldmacher & Ngwenyama et al. J. Exp. Med 2010; 207: 2869–2881
  4. CD8 T-cell recognition of multiple epitopes within specific Gag regions is associated with maintenance of a low steady-state viremia in human immunodeficiency virus type 1-seropositive patients. Geldmacher et al. J Virol. 2007 Mar; 81(5):2440-8.
  5. Minor viral and host genetic polymorphisms can dramatically impact the biological outcome of an epitope-specific CD8 T cell response. Geldmacher et al. Blood 2009 Aug 20;114(8):1553-62.
  6. Early Depletion of Mycobacterium tuberculosis–Specific T Helper 1 Cell Responses after HIV-1 Infection. Geldmacher et al. J Infect Dis. 2008 Dec 1;198(11):1590-8
  7. In a mixed subtype epidemic, the HIV-1 Gag-specific T-cell response is biased towards the infecting subtype. Geldmacher et al. AIDS 2007 Jan 11; 21(2):135-43.
  8. A high viral burden predicts the loss of CD8 T-cell responses specific for subdominant gag epitopes during chronic human immunodeficiency virus infection.  Geldmacher et al. J Virol. 2007 Dec; 81(24):13809-15.

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