HIV, short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is capable of infecting our immune system and could lead to AIDS. Current therapies are able to halt the progression of the HIV infection but cannot completely cure an infected patient as a small amount of inactive HIV remains out of reach of the drugs, the so called ‘latent reservoir’. If a therapy is interrupted, a relapse of the infection can occur in a matter of weeks due to this reservoir. The need for a definitive HIV cure is urgent and could cure the 36.9 million people infected with HIV worldwide.
The goal of this project is to develop a new test able to detect and identify the virus hiding in an infected patient, the proverbial ‘needle in a haystack’. The first step will entail a way to selectively identify infected cells and amplify the DNA regions in which HIV has been hiding (‘needle’), removing the unwanted unaffected DNA (‘haystack’). Subsequently, we will use an emerging new technology, long-read sequencing, that will allow us to gather information on all the different viruses that were found in the previous step. Our test would be able to gather full length HIV-1 sequences together with the location where they reside in the human genome, currently achieved by several separate, laborious and expensive tests.
In conclusion, we propose a novel, innovative strategy that would be a great asset in current and future HIV cure research.