Washington: A new University of Victoria study has significantly advanced the understanding of HIV and how to treat it.
Stephanie Willerth and her team studied approximately 15,000 different versions of the virus and it has allowed them to locate the specific genes of the virus that were resistant to the drugs.
“The virus mutates at a very high rate which is very problematic for HIV patients because the virus eventually develops resistance to medications,’’ said Willerth.
She said that the methods she used could be applied to other difficult-to-treat viruses such as swine flu, Ebola, influenza or even staph infections.
“To study all of these different versions we have to replicate them millions of times, especially when it comes to complex viruses like HIV,
“Because this research method requires a large amount of genetic material and there are obvious risks of duplicating highly contagious viruses, scientists have avoided doing this. Our research was unique because of the method we used—we isolated the genetic material from HIV, so that it was no longer alive, before we replicated it,” she said.
After replicating the virus from a small sample obtained from a long-term HIV patient who had developed drug resistance to their treatment, Willerth and her team studied its genetic make-up using “next generation” DNA sequencing—a new method that allows researchers to study millions of molecules at a time.