Infectious Diseases

Infectious Diseases/Virology

Research Interests

Host-virus interactions, Innate immunity, Myeloid cells, HIV-1 susceptibility and acquisition, HIV-1 immunology, antivirals.

Description of Research

Our laboratory research investigates Host-virus interactions in the context of HIV-1. We are interested in understanding cellular and molecular mechanisms that impact HIV-1 susceptibility in humans. We are particularly interested in studying these in mucosal surfaces which are the site of infection, specifically the male genital tract to better understand HIV acquisition. Our work focuses on better understanding the diverse myeloid cell populations in the genital tract and investigating how they interact with the virus. Our group is able to do so using various HIV-1 reagents in collaboration with several African and international investigators.  We use various tools to interrogate these specific host cellular and viral interactions including multi-omic approaches to delve deeper into the molecular mechanisms underlying viral susceptibility. We extensively use  multi parameter flow cytometry to characterise host cellular events  during HIV-1  acquisition and use ex vivo models to measure susceptibility and these viral-cellular interactions. Our aim is to apply this knowledge in the design of antivirals and inform other HIV prevention initiatives.

 During the COVID-19 pandemic we saw the impact of viral evolution on host immune responses. HIV-1 is a fast-evolving virus which has resulted in different subtypes dominating in different geographical   locations. Subtype C which accounts for 99% of infections in Southern Africa and India globally causes 47% of infections in people living with HIV. Our research group also investigates the impact of viral features such as tropism on host susceptibility and in the application of HIV therapeutics. 

We have just started an exciting research collaboration in which we will be investigating immunogenetic characteristics of primary cells in the genital tract. We are also beginning to investigate the impact of aging on HIV acquisition all using our developed flow cytometry based ex vivo a HIV-1 challenge assay.

The research group is also passionate about making scientific knowledge accessible to the public and participates in various activities engaging our local communities with scientific information using various media including social media.


Some of the approaches we use to investigate molecular correlates of disease susceptibility. This figure taken from DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.928317 shows LC-MS based proteomics foreskin sample and data analysis methods used to assess the impact of aSTI on the foreskin proteome

Recent Publications

Chigorimbo-Murefu, N.T., Potgieter, M., Dzanibe, S., Gabazana, Z., Buri, G., Chawla, A., Nleya, B., Olivier, A.J., Harryparsad, R., Calder, B. and Garnett, S., 2022. A pilot study to show that asymptomatic sexually transmitted infections alter the foreskin epithelial proteome. Frontiers in Microbiology, 13. PubMed

Gray, C.M., O’Hagan, K.L., Lorenzo-Redondo, R., Olivier, A.J., Amu, S., Chigorimbo-Murefu, N., Harryparsad, R., Sebaa, S., Maziya, L., Dietrich, J. and Otwombe, K., 2020. Impact of chemokine CC ligand 27, foreskin anatomy and sexually transmitted infections on HIV-1 target cell availability in adolescent South African males. Mucosal immunology, 13(1), pp.118-127. PubMed

Davies, J., Vallejo, A.F., Sirvent, S., Porter, G., Clayton, K., Qumbelo, Y., Stumpf, P., West, J., Gray, C.M., Chigorimbo-Murefu, N.T. and MacArthur, B., 2021. An IRF1-IRF4 Toggle-Switch Controls Tolerogenic and Immunogenic Transcriptional Programming in Human Langerhans Cells. Frontiers in immunology, 12, p.665312. PubMed

Harryparsad R., Noholoza S., Chigorimbo-Murefu N.T.L., Olivier A.J., Gray C.M. in Hope, T.J.,Douglas D Richman, Mario Stevenson. Encyclopedia of AIDS. 2018

Chigorimbo-Murefu, N.T., Njoroge, M., Louw, S., Mugumbate, G. and Chibale, K., 2013. Drug metabolite generation using a laboratory evolved NADPH independent cytochrome P450: application of in vitro and in silico approaches. Drug metabolism letters, 7(1), pp.68-77. PubMed

Louw, S., Njoroge, M., Chigorimbo-Murefu, N. and Chibale, K., 2012. Comparison of electrospray ionisation, atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation and atmospheric pressure photoionisation for the identification of metabolites from labile artemisinin-based anti-malarial drugs using a QTRAP® mass spectrometer. Rapid communications in mass spectrometry: RCM, 26(20), pp.2431-2442. PubMed