As an expansion of our earlier and ongoing studies on drug resistance among HIV naïve subjects, started with Prof. Pascal Bessong of the University of Venda, Limpopo Province, the HAPG recently welcomed its new collaborator, The Myles Thaler Center, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology at the University of Virginia (UVA) in the United States.
The UVA group consists of Dr. Denis Tebit, Profs Marie-Louise Hammarskjold and David Rekosh, all renowned HIV scientists. Beginning June of 2013, the Univen and UVA groups have been analyzing retrospective data of HIV infected subjects that started treatment with antiretrovirals (ART) at the HAPG in Bela-Bela since 2003. Prospective ART candidates have also been set up and are monitored for the pattern of drug resistance development. Samples from patients clinically suspected of failing treatment are genotypically analyzed in the laboratory using established PCR and sequencing techniques. Samples bearing resistant viruses are then tested for drug susceptibility/resistance against a panel of anti HIV drugs in a luciferase-based phenotypic assay. Results of these assays are then compared with clinical data for the purpose of guiding future treatment. The UVA and Univen groups are currently establishing new and sensitive deep sequencing methods that can detect minority drug resistance populations in both treatment naïve and exposed subjects. These studies will determine how these minority variants influence treatment outcome.