CTL specificities associated with spontaneous control of HIV clades A and C that are dominant in East and Southern Africa

It has become increasingly clear that the development of an effective HIV vaccine that prevents HIV transmission will likely require a coordinated T and B cell response. To design a T cell-based HIV vaccine that will be effective in sub-Saharan Africa; highly networked epitopes in HIV subtypes that circulate in the sub-Saharan Africa will be characterised by Ndlovu, Karita, and team. Secondly, the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I genes that exhibit strong association with immune mediated control of HIV subtypes that circulate in the region will also need to be identified.  From this research, the co-collaborators hope to; 1) identify HLA class I alleles that restrict mutationally constrained HIV epitopes in eastern and southern African individuals, 2) determine HLA diversity among eastern and southern African populations and, 3) generate a publicly available HLA data base for eastern and southern Africa.

The majority of the data regarding epitope specificities associated with spontaneous HIV control come from studies of clade B infection in Europe and North America, and yet more than half (54%) of all people living with HIV reside in Eastern and Southern Africa. Therefore, identification of immunodominant epitopes that contribute to containment of viremia in sub-Saharan Africa is mission critical to the design of immunogens that will be effective in African populations that bear a disproportionate burden of infections. It will be very critical for other researchers in HIV to characterise highly networked epitopes in HIV subtypes that circulate in regions with greater HIV burden as a major contribution towards the design of universal T cell based vaccines.

SANTHE is an Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) flagship programme funded by the Science for Africa Foundation through the DELTAS Africa programme; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Gilead Sciences Inc.; and the Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard.