Global Fellows Research Academy

Omesan Nair

Nationality: South Africa
Institution: NHLS, Wits Health Consortium
Country of work: South Africa

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

Despite the success in antiretroviral therapy, it is not curative, and has limitations. It is challenging particularly in the worst hit low-resource countries that grapple with operational, logistical, adherence and economic costs of lifelong antiretroviral therapy for patients. Therefore, there is the need to find an appropriate cure for HIV by means of a coordinated effort by global infectious disease researchers. The International AIDS society has developed a guide towards a concerted effort to find a “functional cure” for HIV infection and suggests that adequate CD4 positive T cell models are lacking in the research field to model HIV latency. There are also guidelines that recommend use of next generation technologies such as proteomics to decipher HIV infection and latency mechanisms and to identify pathways and factors that could be therapeutically targeted for development of treatments.

What is your current area of research?

Looking at children is much broader than just mother to child transmission (MTCT), we use MTCT as a model to understand protective immunity to HIV-1. Our interest is really more of comparing early treated infants with exposed uninfected age-matched infants. CD4 cells are the major target cell for HIV infection, there are no reports of the CD4 cell specific proteome under infected conditions in our populations. We hope to build this work using investigations of viral and host proteomes in mother-infant pairs using mass spectrometry based proteomics. The overall purpose of our intended work is to describe the CD4 T cell proteome of infants in early life (i) to improve our understanding of the establishment of reservoirs in HIV-infected neonates, and (ii) to inform strategies for attaining "functional cure" in infants.