LISTEN | SA HIV studies paved the way for SA Covid-19 discoveries: scientists

Experience with HIV research is making things easier for SA scientists on Covid-19

03 December 2021 - 07:00
By Bulelani Nonyukela AND Bulelani Nonyukela
Experience with HIV is paving the way for SA scientists on Covid-19 studies.
Image: 123RF/ktsdesign Experience with HIV is paving the way for SA scientists on Covid-19 studies.

Despite SA's shortcomings on HIV vaccine trials, its research has helped our scientists to be better equipped to feel their way with Covid-19 — that's the message from the SA scientific community.


Prof Thumbi Ndung'u, director for basic and translational science at the Africa Health Research Institute, and Dr Ahmad Haeri Mazanderani, a clinical virologist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, attribute the accomplishments to HIV studies.

Prof Ndung'u says HIV research in South Africa has better equipped SA scientists in tackling Covid-19.

Recently SA scientists discovered the B.1.1.529 variant of coronavirus, named Omicron by the World Health Organisation. B.1.351 (Beta), the first variant of concern in the world, was discovered by SA scientists in May last year, just two months after Covid-19 was first detected in the country.

Mazanderani says a lot of ground work on Covid-19 is from the HIV science community.

He said, “A lot of the people who have been working on HIV have pivoted to working on Covid-19, whether that's evaluating antibodies to various subtypes or variants of Covid-19, a lot of that work is within the HIV science community.”