Genetic diversity of HIV-1 CRF02_AG envelop gene among individuals with chronic infection in Cameroon: implication for vaccine development

Despite more than three decades of research, a protective vaccine against HIV-1 group M (HIV-1M) remains elusive. To date, none of the vaccine candidates tested has been able to induce effective humoral immunity. Nevertheless, neutralising antibodies (nAbs) in the broad sense can protect non-human primates against viral challenge in passive immunisation studies, supporting the idea that an HIV-1M vaccine that elicits nAbs could be effective against HIV-1M acquisition in humans. In the search for an effective vaccine on a global scale, it is essential to understand the genetic evolution of the various HIV-1 variants. Cameroon is known as the epicenter of the HIV epidemic and has the highest prevalence of HIV infections in West Central Africa. HIV-1 CRF02_AG dominates the epidemic in Cameroon, unlike most parts of the world, which are dominated by pure B and C subtype infections. Kenou therefore plans to study the evolution of the HIV-1 M envelope and the genetic and biological characteristics of individuals infected with HIV-1 CRF02_AG, given that this subtype is the most prevalent in Cameroon and the fourth most prevalent in the world. More specifically, she and her team will amplify and sequence the entire HIV-1 M envelope and perform an in-depth analysis of these sequences in relation to the HIV-1 CRF02_AG sequences available on publicly accessible websites, in order to provide indications for the design of vaccines including HIV-1 M CRF02_AG infection, and thus help steer the field towards a global cure strategy.

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.