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Researchers explain outcomes in ART treatment of HIV

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[FILES] A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS at a mobile testing unit PHOTO: Edward Echwalu/Reuters<br />

The eLife journal has published an article titled “A Mechanistic Model for long-term Immunological outcomes in South African HIV-infected Children and Adults receiving ART”, following a recent study.

Led by Eva Liliane Ujeneza, AIMS alumna and researcher affiliated to AIMS and the South African Centre of Excellence for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) in Cape Town, the article combines clinical data and mathematical analysis to understand how T-cell numbers are affected by infection and treatment at different ages.

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Ujeneza said “The HIV global pandemic is still very much pervasive across the globe”, adding: “Even though antiretroviral treatment (ART) counters the virus’ highly destructive effects on the immune system’s CD4 T cells, the response to treatment varies across patients, for reasons that are not fully understood.

“Our study uses a combined mathematical and empirical approach, to demonstrate how age, gender, and other parameters affect the recovery of CD4 T cells following treatment initiation, and how these effects vary over time,” she said.

Co-author and Chief Scientific Officer for AIMS, Prof Wilfred Ndifon said: “Several previous studies have quantified the effects of ART on the CD4 T cells.

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“These studies generally used so-called ‘semi-mechanistic’ mathematical models, the analysis of which incorporated reference CD4 T cell counts from healthy individuals in an ad hoc way.”

He continued: “Eva’s study is the first to use a mathematical model that provides mechanistic insight into the changes that CD4 T cells undergo during ART, while enabling systematic comparison with changes occurring in healthy individuals. We are excited about the imminent impact of the findings. One possible application is for projecting normal ranges of CD4 T cell recovery rates in paediatric HIV patients on ART, such that instances of abnormal recovery can be easily detected.”

Ndifon added that the raging COVID-19 pandemic has shifted focus from HIV/AIDS.

According to UN AIDS, since the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, around 75 million people have become infected with the virus, and over 30 million people have died from AIDS-related diseases.

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