South African TB, HIV research institute set to open

A new South African tuberculosis research center funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, is scheduled to open on October 9.

The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV is housed in a new building on the campus of the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, according to Nature.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute directly funded construction of the seven-story, $40 million research facility, which is located near a major chest clinic that screens nearly 15,000 people for TB and HIV every month. The center hopes to recruit volunteers from the clinic for its research projects.

"The samples are literally just outside our door," microbiologist William Bishai, the institute's director, said, Nature reports.

The institute will focus on developing treatments and diagnostics for drug resistant strains of TB. Bishai said it will also study the mysterious relationship between TB and HIV.

"It is clear that TB makes HIV worse and HIV makes TB worse. But we don't understand the mechanism behind this," Bishai said, according to Nature.

The province of KwaZulu-Natal has one of the highest rates of TB infection in the world and sees nearly 3,000 drug-resistant cases every year. In addition, approximately 80 percent of those diagnosed with TB in the province also have HIV.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, one of the wealthiest research foundations in the world, plans to contribute $70 million to the new center over the next 10 years.