May 26

How South Africa can stop HIV drug resistance in its tracks

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Authored by Imogen Wright – Republished from “The Conversation

Health care is entering a new era of personalised medicine, where treatment is tailored to the individual patient. To usher in this era, researchers across the world are trying to create cheaper tests that can find DNA mutations in humansbacteria and viruses.

In South Africa, researchers are using these new, high-throughput testing methods to crack the problem of HIV drug resistance. Drug resistance testing is considered a critical part of an effective HIV treatment programme, but until now testing has been very costly.

Now, novel research in South Africa has come up with a solution that cuts the cost up to tenfold, raising the possibility of an HIV drug resistance test that could be accessible to almost anyone.

More than 30 years after its discovery, HIV continues to present an exceptional medical and public health challenge. Although anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) are effective at disrupting the virus’s life cycle, the way HIV replicates is very unstable. Mutations creep into the virus’s DNA as it replicates, which can make the virus resistant to ARVs.

Read the full blog at The Conversation.

Apr 10

Ability To Develop Broadly Neutralizing HIV-1 Antibodies…

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Ability To Develop Broadly Neutralizing HIV-1 Antibodies Is Not Restricted by the Germline Ig Gene Repertoire

This work is part of our ongoing collaboration with CAPRISA and shows that there is no difference in the germline IGHV repertoires between individuals who do and do not develop broadly neutralizing antibodies.  This is significant because it suggests that all individuals may have the capability to generate antibodies that can neutralise a very diverse spectrum of HIV viruses. We just need to find a way to elicit the production of these antibodies through a successful vaccine.


The human Ig repertoire is vast, producing billions of unique Abs from a limited number of germline Ig genes. The IgH V region (IGHV) is central to Ag binding and consists of 48 functional genes. In this study, we analyzed whether HIV-1–infected individuals who develop broadly neutralizing Abs show a distinctive germline IGHV profile. Using both 454 and Illumina technologies, we sequenced the IGHV repertoire of 28 HIV-infected South African women from the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) 002 and 004 cohorts, 13 of whom developed broadly neutralizing Abs. Of the 259 IGHV alleles identified in this study, approximately half were not found in the International Immunogenetics Database (IMGT). This included 85 entirely novel alleles and 38 alleles that matched rearranged sequences in non-IMGT databases. Analysis of the rearranged H chain V region genes of mAbs isolated from seven of these women, as well as previously isolated broadly neutralizing Abs from other donors, provided evidence that at least eight novel or non-IMGT alleles contributed to functional Abs. Importantly, we found that, despite a wide range in the number of IGHV alleles in each individual, including alleles used by known broadly neutralizing Abs, there were no significant differences in germline IGHV repertoires between individuals who do and do not develop broadly neutralizing Abs. This study reports novel IGHV repertoires and highlights the importance of a fully comprehensive Ig database for germline gene usage prediction. Furthermore, these data suggest a lack of genetic bias in broadly neutralizing Ab development in HIV-1 infection, with positive implications for HIV vaccine design.

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Mar 23

Simon Travers at Science Cafe

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Professor Simon Travers is one of SANBI’s Principal Investigators with a focus on HIV research. His talk on how we can find more effective ways to treat HIV as well as how to prevent infection promises to be engaging. Do not miss this opportunity.

Where: Truth Coffee Roasting, 36 Buitenkant St
When: 26 March 6 pm – 8 pm
Cost: Free Entry – food and drinks on sale
RSVP: No need to RSVP, but arrive ~15 min early for a seat
Parking: Street parking on Buitenkant and side roads. There’s a large parking lot on Harrington Street, 2 min walk away

For more details go to the Science Cafe Facebook page.

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