Global Fellows Research Academy

Melissa-Rose Abrahams

Nationality: South Africa
Institution: University of Cape Town
Country of work: South Africa

What is your motivation for engaging in HIV cure and remission research?

I would like to understand the barriers to HIV cure and remission within our local context in order to inform curative strategies. Women in Sub-Saharan Africa bear the greatest HIV burden of disease and of those who are on antiretroviral therapy; the majority have initiated therapy in the chronic stage of infection. This may results in a larger latent reservoir with more extensive immune escape variants, which would constitute a greater challenge to strategies aimed at reservoir clearance.

What is your current area of research?

My current research involves characterization of the latent reservoir in a cohort of HIV-infected women from rural Kwa-Zulu Natal. This includes determining reservoir size and viral composition and the implementation of techniques to best accomplish this. Among the most pertinent research questions related to this are:

  • What is the size of the latent reservoir in a cohort of subtype C infected South African women?
  • Does dual HIV infection or the development of broadly neutralizing antibodies impact the size and composition of the latent reservoir?
  • Which viral variants circulating in the blood pre-antiretroviral therapy can be identified in the latent reservoir?