CSIR HIV/AIDS and TB research to alleviate pressure on South Africa’s health system

Publication Date: 
Friday, December 10, 2021 - 00:00

Researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) briefed the media on some of the organisation’s research and development (R&D) efforts aimed at addressing the HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) epidemics in South Africa.

Contact Person

David Mandaha

+27 (12) 841 3654/072 126 8910


Researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) briefed the media on some of the organisation’s research and development (R&D) efforts aimed at addressing the HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) epidemics in South Africa.

Briefing the media on 10 December 2021, CSIR Researcher, Dr Advaita Singh shed light on the CSIR’s innovative plant-based highly potent anti-HIV antibodies research initiative. While CSIR lab technician Kanyane Malatji, provided insights into a multiplex HIV and TB point-of-care diagnostic test being developed for use in remote and rural areas.

“The CSIR’s plant-based anti-HIV antibodies research is aimed at developing a cost-effective preprophylaxis vaccine which will passively immunise against HIV/AIDS, pre and post exposure. This initiative was inspired by the desire to empower young girls and women to protect themselves against the virus as studies have indicated that women are theoretically, at higher risk of HIV acquisition,” said Singh.

Working together with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the CSIR, is developing broadly neutralising antibodies against HIV-1, the most widespread human immunodeficiency virus, for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. CSIR scientists and their research partners were able to demonstrate the ability to engineer tobacco plants to produce unique glycosylation and rare sulfation post-translational modifications, a result that is not usually seen in plants - evident of the CSIR’s research teams’ ability to touch lives through innovation Glycosylation is a biochemical process during which a glycan – a large carbohydrate molecule – attaches to a protein, a lipid, or another organic molecule.

The glycoengineered Nicotiana benthamiana (a relative of the tobacco plant) expressed two broadly neutralising antibodies named CAP256-VRC26 08 and CAP256-VRC26 09. These two antibodies were originally isolated by collaboration partners; the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research In South Africa  (CAPRISA) and the NICD from a South African HIV positive patient during a trial conducted by CAPRISA. The outcome showed that the antibodies from the CAP256 lineage were the most active, with high potency and broad specificity.

“We still have a number of steps to get through, as the research process commonly requires, before this technology is available in the market, however, the CSIR and its partners intend on making it accessible to patients through an industry partner once it is ready,” added Singh.

Another technology presented by the CSIR at the media briefing aims to provide remote and rural areas with a diagnostic assay that will test for HIV and TB simultaneously using one device in the comfort of the patient’s home.

“The situation is more difficult in remote areas where patients must either travel large distances to reach a healthcare facility or, must wait a long time before obtaining their TB diagnostic results. Therefore, through our multiplex HIV and TB point-of-care diagnostic assay, we hope to mitigate these challenges with the objective of improving treatment outcomes for patients in both remote and rural areas,” said Malatji.

The locally developed diagnostic test uses a solid surface that couples the HIV and TB antigens and makes use of a locally produced fluorescence detector.

“The benefits of this technology are that it offers a cost-effective solution with a low turnaround time of approximately two hours. Additionally, no laboratory infrastructure is required, the device is easy to use and can be performed at point-of-care without highly trained personnel,” added  Malatji.

The CSIR’s multiplex HIV and TB point-of-care diagnostic assay is funded by the government and the plant-based anti-HIV antibodies research work, by the Department of Science and Innovation and the South African Medical Research Council. 



Issued by CSIR Strategic Communications


David Mandaha, CSIR Media Relations Manager

Tel: 012 841 3654

Mobile: 072 126 8910

Email: dmandaha@csir.co.za 


About the CSIR:

The CSIR, an entity of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. Constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1945 as a science council, the CSIR undertakes directed and multidisciplinary research and technological innovation, as well as industrial and scientific development to improve the quality of life of all South Africans. For more information, visit www.csir.co.za


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