Grants awarded

The impact of virus genetics on transmissibility of HIV-1


Dr Robert Power

University College London

United Kingdom

HIV affects millions of people worldwide, particularly in developing countries. While treatment has improved life expectancy, preventing new infections has been less successful. The likelihood of infecting others is partly determined by a person’s viral load. This varies greatly among those who are infected, with a higher viral load leading to greater infectiousness. Recent studies have shown that viral load is in part controlled by HIV itself, with differences between viruses leading to differences in individuals’ viral load. This can be seen by the similarity in viral load in people infected with the same strain.

My aim is to identify specific genetic differences between HIV samples that lead to changes in viral load. I will do this using large genetic datasets from tens of thousands of samples. My background in statistical genetics will allow me to identify the genetic differences that influence viral load. I will then combine these findings with information on people’s genetics and environment to better understand what puts individuals at risk of infection.

The results of this study will be useful for both predicting an individual patient’s outcome and for developing new treatments.