Research Profile – Mucosal Predictors of HIV Acquisition

Photo: Dr. Adam Burgener

Improved tools and targets for HIV susceptibility in the female reproductive tract

Young women are at high risk for HIV infection and represent approximately 380,000 of the 2 million new infections per year, worldwide. Therefore the development of preventative technologies for women, such as vaccines or microbicides, is a public health imperative.

The genital tract mucosa is the first site of contact for HIV in women during heterosexual intercourse. Therefore, understanding mucosal immune factors that affect a woman’s susceptibility to HIV is critical to the development of prevention technologies. The best approach to understand these immune processes is to study mucosal events that precede infection to infer cause and effect. Our preliminary research indicates that genital tract factors associated with sex hormones may be associated with increased risk of HIV acquisition.

The team will utilize advanced proteomics and systems biology techniques, and mathematical modeling, to define mucosal mediators that best predict HIV infection outcome, and their relationship to hormones and hormonal contraceptives. This may uncover valuable targets for HIV-1 prevention and will represent the first study of its kind to incorporate these tools to understand HIV acquisition.

This project will involve study populations from South Africa and Sweden. The international team is comprised of a diverse group of scientists and clinicians with the shared goal to strengthen global partnerships and prevention efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

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