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Dr Kaelo Seatla (2022)

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Employing institution: Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP)

Host institution: Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), South Africa

Project title: Evaluating clinical and molecular responses amongst SARS-CoV-2/ HIV-1 co-infected individuals in Botswana.

Dr Kaelo Seatla is a Clinician Researcher with the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership for Research and Education (BHP), mentored by Dr’s  Simani Gaseitsiwe and Shahin Lockman. He is an active medical doctor trained in clinical research and advanced laboratory skills with a PhD in medical sciences.

His current research interests are in evaluating for HIV-1 drug resistance mutations, developing cheap drug resistance testing assays and applying these skills to new and emerging infectious disease pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2 (through viral sequencing/genomics and assessment of immune responses).

AREF Fellowship:

SARS-CoV-2 infections are raging through low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) causing significant morbidity and mortality. LMICs already account for close to two-thirds of the ongoing global HIV/AIDS pandemic. There are data inconsistencies on SARS-CoV-2/HIV-1 co-infected individuals.

Proposed work for this fellowship relates to SARS-CoV-2 and HIV and will involve assessment of within-host SARS-CoV-2 evolution in adults with HIV who experienced persistent/recurrent SARS CoV2 infection (including evaluation of minority SARS CoV2 variants). In addition, evaluation of vaccine induced immune responses by various COVID-19 vaccines and how they neutralise various SARS-CoV2 variants of concern will be evaluated. Assessment of impact of HIV drug resistance mutations on viral replication capacity will be conducted.

Dr Seatla will be hosted at the prestigious Africa Health Research Institute (Durban, South Africa) in Prof Thumbi Ndung’u’s Lab where he will receive additional mentorship and training on new laboratory techniques to successfully carry-out this work. He will transfer knowledge and skills learnt back to Botswana for patient care and further scientific research on HIV, SARS-CoV-2 and other/emerging infectious disease pathogens.

“AREF Fellowship trainings / placements will enrich south-south collaborations and significantly capacitate / support my career path in becoming an independent clinician researcher in Botswana.”