HIV-1 is the main form of HIV that plagues Sub-Saharan Africa. Strains can be categorised into groups with group M being the predominant circulating group accounting for over 90% of HIV-1 infections. This can be further subdivided into subtypes/clades. The HIV-1 virus undergoes many changes in the human body and millions of variants can be produced in a single day. As a result of this, there is further diversity beyond the clades as shown by recent advances in science that have led to the identification of other forms of HIV-1. Given that vaccines and anti-retroviral therapies are designed based on types of HIV, significant genetic changes can have an impact on their effectiveness.
Musale’s project uses single genome amplification on recent infections to generate sequences. Molecular techniques are implemented to analyse prevalent HIV-1 strains and compare them to older infecting strains. The similarities and differences are further analysed to see if any of these changes can have a major impact on how we should treat the virus. This will help researchers designing vaccines and other therapies to know which sequence regions they can continue targeting for treatment in the Zambian population and other regions with similar sequences.