Humoral immune response to non-B HIV-1 infection in children in Cameroon

Despite being an important group of HIV infected individuals, HIV+ children are understudied compared to others, particularly in terms of humoral immune response.  Therefore, investigating the humoral immune responses in HIV+ children could generate data that will efficiently contribute to the design of vaccine that may induce the most potent neutralising antibodies to protect against diverse HIV-1 subtypes in the paediatric population. 

In this preliminary study, Aubin Nanfack and his team, are hoping to do exactly that i.e. generate data that will provide insight into antibody neutralisation response in children in an environment with very broad genetic diversity that may prove valuable for the development of HIV-1 paediatric vaccines. 

Globally, children under the age of 15 account for about 5% of all people living with HIV, 10% of new HIV infections, and 15% of all AIDS-related deaths. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly 90% of all children living with HIV. West and Central Africa lags behind the world’s other regions in many key HIV indicators such as early infant diagnosis and paediatric antiretroviral treatment coverage. Of approximately 510,000 HIV-positive individuals (2.7% prevalence) in Cameroon, there are 31,000 children. An estimated 7,600 new cases paediatric HIV infection occur yearly, placing Cameroon among the priority countries for programmatic interventions against paediatric HIV. It is important to investigate the humoral immune responses of HIV-1 infected individuals and particularly in children as other studies have demonstrated that infant immune responses are distinct from those of adults.

There is still an important number of newly infected children with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa despite numerous prevention of mother to child transmission programmes. This situation can be favoured by several factors including: poor knowledge of the biological parameters involved in mother-to-child transmission, that should be addressed by scientists; poorly structured intervention programs; and lack of sufficient funds to implement intervention programmes that should be addressed by the government.

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.