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Sandra Milena Gonzalez Diaz 
Home Country: Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia

Universidad de Antioquia, doctoral student 1st year

Microbiologist, Universidad de Antioquia, 2010

Master in Basic and Biomedical Sciences, Universidad de Antioquia, 2015


Project Title:
Maria Teresa Rugeles López

Role of Vitamin D in natural resistance to HIV-1 infection: effects on viral transmission during HIV-1 exposure
Description of the Project: Immunomodulatory molecules such as vitamin D could modulate the immune response triggered at mucosal level during the exposure to the HIV-1 reducing the viral transmission. In this regard, we propose to evaluate the functional effect of the VitD in an in vitro model of HIV-1 exposure contributing to understand the resistance phenomenon.
Colin Graydon 
Home Country: Born in Milton (Ontario), Canadaa

U of Manitoba, PhD student, 2nd year

BSc Microbiology and Immunology at UBC (British Columbia)


Project Title:
Dr. Keith Fowke

Assessment of the LAG-3 Inhibitory Mechanism on T cell Activation
Description of the Project: HIV infection, like many other persistent infections, causes chronic immune activation, which can lead to a type of immune dysfunction known as functional exhaustion. Exhaustion is characterized by the impaired function of T cells, which are vital immune cells for infection control, and T cell expression of exhaustion markers, which contribute to the functional impairment of these cells. LAG-3 is one such exhaustion marker, but the mechanism it uses to impair T cell function is currently unknown. The aim of my project is to shed light this mechanism, including determining whether LAG-3 interferes with the internal signaling of the cell and/or with the cell’s ability to recognize the infection properly. This information would be crucial to understanding the effects and implications of LAG-3 in HIV and other diseases with chronic immune activation.
Meshack Juma
Home Country: Homa Bay County of Kenya

University of Nairobi, Doctoral student

Bsc. Medical Microbiology from JomoKenyatta University and Msc. Medical Microbiology from University of Nairobi (UoN)


Project Title:
Professor Omu Anzala

Antimicroial susceptibility testing and molecular characterization of Neisseria gonorrheae isolates from patients with genital discharge in Nairobi, Kenya
Zipporah Machuki
Home Country: Kenya

U of Manitoba Doctoral Student 3rd year


Dr. Terry Blake Ball

Project Title:

Differentiating Toll-Like Receptor (TLR) 7 and TLR8 responses in lymphocyte population contained in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and their effect on HIV replication invitro.

Description of the Project: In 2014 about 36.9 million people were living with HIV/AIDS worldwide and there were approximately 2.0 million new HIV infections. The design of a vaccine that can prevent HIV infection remains a global priority. Susceptibility to HIV has been shown to depend on the inflammation level and availability of target cells mainly CD4+ T cells that express CCR5 and a4ß7 genital mucosa while in human peripheral blood, CD4+ T cells expressing CCR6+ are most permissive to HIV infection. However, the mechanism leading to immune activation in HIV infections remain poorly understood. This study aims to assess the effect of toll like receptor 7 and 8 stimulation of innate T lymphocytes, on immune activation and HIV infection of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).
Dessalegn Melesse
Home Country: Born in Ethiopia

University of Manitoba, PhD candidate

M.Sc., University of Manitoba, Canada

Postgraduate Diploma, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (host institution: University of Cape Town), South Africa

B.Ed., Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia


Dr. James Blanchar

Project Title:

Understanding heterogeneity in HIV transmission dynamics among key populations at highest risk of acquisition.

Description of the Project: The HIV epidemic in Pakistan is most concentrated among key populations (KPs) at highest risk of acquisition, specifically people who inject drugs (PWIDs) and sex workers (female, male and transgender). So far, most of the epidemic is concentrated in PWIDs, where the HIV prevalence has reached very high levels. There is evidence to suggest that a significant proportion of sex workers have interacted with PWIDs through sexual or drug injecting networks, thus augmenting their own risk of HIV acquisition. As a result, there is a growing concern that the Pakistan’s HIV epidemic will increase substantially among sex workers, and with increasing sexual transmission to other segments of the population through their clients and other sexual partners. My research intends to explore the complex sexual and injection networks among KPs in Pakistan to elucidate pathways leading to heterogeneity in HIV transmission epidemics. Combined with epidemiological analyses, mathematical models will be utilized to gain insight into the current and future status of the HIV epidemics, the subpopulations that drive new HIV infections, and how HIV sub-epidemics evolve over time in Pakistan. Findings from my research will be very important for gaining a more precise understanding of context-specific complexities that dictate the HIV transmission dynamics as well as for comparing potential heterogeneity between geographic regions.
Jehidys Montiel Ramos
Home Country: Colombia

University of Antioquia, first year student of the Doctoral in Epidemiology

MSc. Biomedical Basics Sciences, University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia

B.A. Microbiologist, School of Microbiology, University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia


Dr. Alberto Tobón Castaño

Project Title:

Prevalence and risk factors of asymptomatic Plasmodium spp. infections in two different endemic malaria regions in Antioquia, (Colombia), 2017

Description of the Project: Malaria is a global public health problem. One of the main challenges for successful control programs is the detection of asymptomatic infections, which represent silent reservoirs of the parasite. For the other hand, these kind infections increase the risk of developing chronic anemia and have been associated with increased inflammation and chronic endothelial activation, whose long-term consequences are unknown. Given the importance of asymptomatic infections in maintaining transmission of the parasite, potential adverse effects on carriers, the lack of knowledge about the epidemiology, individual factors, and socioeconomic context associated with asymptomatic infections in Colombia and particularly in the department of Antioquia, the findings of this study provide useful information for the design and implementation of control measures according to the profiles of each endemic area.
Florence Mutua
Home Country: Kenya

University of Manitoba, Doctoral student 2nd year

MSc in Medical Microbiology, University of Nairobi

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB), University of Nairobi


Dr. Blake Ball

Project Title:

The effect of concurrent HIV infection on interferon signaling and transcript signatures in tuberculosis

Description of the Project: Tuberculosis is currently ranked alongside HIV as a leading cause of death by a single infectious agent. TB presents as a spectrum with latent TB at one end and active TB at the other; HIV being a potent factor in reactivation of LTBI to active TB. Interferons have multiple roles in infectious diseases including antiviral and immunomodulation roles. In Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection type II interferons play a protective role while that of type I IFNs remains incompletely understood. This study therefore aims to assess interferon signaling in TB, the effect concurrent HIV infection has on this signaling and associate these with cytokine responses to define a potential prediction factor for disease progression.
Lucy Wangari Mwangi
Home Country: Nairobi, Kenya

University of Nairobi; PhD. Student

MSc. Tropical and Infectious Diseases, University of Nairobi Kenya

BSc. Medical Laboratory Science, Kenyatta University Kenya


Dr. Keith Fowke and Dr. Julius Oyugi, PhD

Project Title:

Limiting HIV Target Cells in the Female Genital Tract by Inducing Immune Quiescence

Description of the Project: HIV/AIDS is still a big global challenge, disproportionately affecting Sub-Saharan Africa and especially women. Increased immune activation is a risk factor for HIV-1 infection; with abundant production of pro-inflammatory cytokines promoting viral replication in infected cells. We have also learnt that a higher risk of sero-conversion is associated with increased immune activation prior to HIV exposure. However, Highly Exposed Seronegative (HESN) individuals are seen to have a unique immune quiescence (IQ) phenotype and despite HIV exposure remain uninfected; they show a lower base level immune activation than other people and few HIV target cells in the female genital tract. This study aims to answer the question of whether anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin and hydroxychloroquine, can decrease T cell immune activation among a HIV negative population thereby induce this IQ phenotype; with the goal to develop a new avenue to prevent HIV infection.
Kenneth Omollo
Home Country: Kenya

University of Nairobi, Doctoral Student

Msc. Medical Microbiology, University of Nairobi

Bsc. Biomedical Technology, University of Nairobi

Dr. Julius Oyugi, Dr. Keith Fowke
Project Title:
The impact of hormonal contraception on the susceptibility to HIV infection among women from Nairobi, Kenya
Description of the Project: Endogenous sex hormones, estradiol and progesterone, are known to regulate the mucosal immune system in the female genital tract throughout the menstrual cycle. These hormones play a role in mucosal defense and susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. There is scientific debate that use of the progesterone-based contraceptive Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DMPA) may increase the risk of HIV acquisition in women. However, the biological mechanisms that underlie these observations are yet to be fully elucidated. My study is exploring the impact of exogenous sex hormones on the activation of T cells and innate cytokines in the blood and female genital tract as a possible mechanism by which contraceptives may increase one’s risk of HIV infection.
Ana Ossa
Home Country: Colombia

University of Antioquia, doctoral student in biomedical basics sciences with emphasis in immunology

Specializing in Clinical Microbiology, Institución Universitaria Colegio Mayor de Antioquia, Colombia

Microbiologist, University of Antioquia, Colombia

Dr. Wildeman Zapata Builes
Project Title:
Immunogenetic factors limiting HIV-1 transmission in men who have sex with men from Medellín, Colombia
Description of the Project: The prevalence of HIV infection in Colombia is about 0.53%; even though HIV-1 could affect to everybody, there are populations with high risk of infection, such as men who have sex with men (MSM), who are more severely affected by HIV than any other group; this situation shows the need to develop new approaches to fight against HIV in this population. However, there are MSM and other people who remain uninfected despite their exposure to the virus, called HIV-1-exposed seronegative individuals (HESN) who make evident the existence of natural resistance mechanisms against HIV infection. Therefore, with this project we want to determine the immunogenetic factors limiting HIV-1 transmission in MSM from Medellín-Colombia to contribute with the understanding of the HIV-1 pathogenesis and it might lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies for this elusive disease.
Mallika Tharakan
Home Country: Mysore, Karnataka, India

Kuvempu University, Karnataka, India, PhD Student

Bachelor’s Degree, Mass Communication, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, India

Post Graduate Diploma, Human Resource Management, St. Joseph’s College of Business Administration, Bangalore, India

Master’s Degree, Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, India

Dr. Shajy Isac
Project Title:
Changing engagement of women in agriculture and its association with consumption patterns and nutrient intake in rural Karnataka
Description of The Project: For an estimated 72% of the 1.1 billion people who live in rural India, agriculture is a way of life. Agriculture in India defines familial tradition, social relations and gender roles. Female in the agricultural sector, whether through traditional means or industrial, for subsistence or as an agricultural labourer, represents a momentous demographic group. In rural India, the percentage of women who depend on agriculture for their livelihood is as high as 84%. With globalization and liberalization, the agricultural economy has experienced shifts and changes and so has the nature of involvement of women in agriculture. Modernization and mechanization has brought many paradoxical situations for the poor household women. Though there have been several studies to understand the changing patterns of the agrarian economy and women’s participation in agriculture, studies have not been really undertaken to explore the link between women’s participation and their nutrient intake. My research is aimed at understanding the current pattern of women’s engagement in agricultural sector in rural India; examining the changing patterns in the engagement of women over a period of time; and exploring how shifts in engagement patterns has influenced or resulted in changes in consumption models and nutrient uptake among these women.

Canadian Institute of Health Research
Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Canadian Institute of Health Research
Canadian Institute of Health Research
Canadian Institute of Health Research
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