Date Published: September 12, 2017
Publisher: BioMed Central
Author(s): Julie Lajoie, Lucy Mwangi, Keith R. Fowke.
For over three decades, HIV infection has had a tremendous impact on the lives of individuals and public health. Microbicides and vaccines studies have shown that immune activation at the genital tract is a risk factor for HIV infection. Furthermore, lower level of immune activation, or what we call immune quiescence, has been associated with a lower risk of HIV acquisition. This unique phenotype is observed in highly-exposed seronegative individuals from different populations including female sex workers from the Pumwani cohort in Nairobi, Kenya. Here, we review the link between immune activation and susceptibility to HIV infection. We also describe a new concept in prevention where, instead of targeting the virus, we modulate the host immune system to resist HIV infection. Mimicking the immune quiescence phenotype might become a new strategy in the toolbox of biomedical methods to prevent HIV infection.
According to the latest UNAIDS report, 36.7 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Despite the development of new antiretroviral drugs and better access to care and prevention programs, the number of new HIV cases has remained over 2 million per annum over the past 10 years with a very slow rate of decline . Clearly, existing prevention methods are not sufficient and new approaches are required. However, to develop new biomedical prevention methods, we need a better understanding of the factors driving susceptibility to HIV infection.