Nkandu Luo

Fact File

DID you know that Professor Nkandu Luo was the first Zambian doctor, together with Professor Chintu, to confirm the first HIV/AIDS case in Zambia when the disease started in the early 1980s?

For details, follow the excerpt below from

(Conversations with Memorable Personalities)

Amos Malupenga:

How then did you progress in school?

Prof. Nkandu Luo:

I went through several schools. From Tunduya, I went to Burma Road. Then my parents were transferred to Chisenga Lumbwe what is now called Hill Side School and that’s where I wrote my secondary entrance exams.

I was selected to go to Roma Girls Secondary School. From there I went to Domican Convent and then entered University of Zambia (UNZA) in the School of Natural Sciences for a very short period. This was in 1970/1.

Then I proceeded to the Soviet Union to pursue similar studies. I again entered what is called Restov Medical Institute in a town called Restov On Don. I was there for a year doing my primary, what you can equate to UNZA’s first year in natural sciences. At the end of the year, I was selected to go to Moscow State University where I pursued my studies for a period of six years. I specialised as a Micro-Biologist.

Then I came back to Zambia in 1978 and joined a research program at UNZA with a Dr. Powell at the School of Medicine where we were working on a vaccine against sleeping sickness. It is that interest of working on a vaccine that prompted me to further specialise as an immunologist and I got a scholarship to go to the United Kingdom to do my PhD in immunology.

I also decided that it is not possible to go to a medical school and teach immunology which is a difficult subject just based on a PhD program because PhD is a self-taught program. So I decided to also do a masters degree in immunology.

During the time I was pursuing my PhD, I was at the end of three years and a quarter, able to achieve two things – get a masters from Brunel University and a PhD from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

But before I left for my studies on the first of September 1979, I also managed to get married to Dr. Francis Manda at the time. (she laughed).

Amos Malupenga:

You say at the time but anyway I will get to that issue later. For now, could you tell me what happened after you completed your studies?

Prof Nkandu Luo:

After my PhD, I came back to Zambia and met with the then Head of Department Professor Nancy Pearsall. I informed her I was ready to take up my assignment at the School of Medicine.

I started work even before I was given a letter of appointment. You know university appointments are graded – lecturer grade three, two, one and so on.

The department I joined comprised Professor Pearsall as an immunologist and Dr. Patel who was the only histopathologist and I joined with a double major that of microbiologist and immunologist.

About August of the same year, I got my formal appointment in the Department of Immunology and Micro-Biology as a lecturer. I was teaching both micro-biology and immunology since I had a double major.

During that period we were presented with a patient who had very unusual signs and conditions. This was Professor Chintu’s patient. I was challenged then as a young immunologist to find out what the problem was with this patient. After several studies and correspondence with my colleagues in Britain and discussions with Professor Chintu, we discovered that this person actually had HIV/AIDS.

That’s how I got interested in working on HIV/AIDS. Because when I did my masters in micro-biology, my major was in anti-biotics. When I did my masters in immunology, my major was in vaccine development in sleeping sickness. When I did my PhD, my major was sickle cell anaemia. And in fact, my first 10 publications in my professional career when I was still in London were actually on sickle cell anaemia.
It was as a result of the presentation of the first HIV/AIDS patient that aroused my interest in HIV/AIDS activities. …

An excerpt from

(Conversations with Memorable Personalities)

Picture below:

Prof Lou


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