Project title: Severity factors in injecting drug users infected with HIV: elements for developing specific disease control strategies (HIV-ID)

The incidence of HIV infections among Romanian IDUs increased in the recent years; they represent one third of the new HIV cases. It has been demonstrated that viral and host factors might influence disease evolution in HIV patients. Co-receptor usage, VL, virus subtype, host genetic and immune activation were incriminated for AIDS progression. However, the mechanisms beyond this complex virus-host interplay are poorly understood. Our previous studies showed two distinct groups of IDU patients, one infected with local F1 subtype strains and the other group infected with CRF14_BG. The IDUs infected with CRF14_BG had a faster disease evolution characterized by a low CD4 count and CXCR4 tropic viruses at baseline. The main purpose of the research project is to determine the inter-connection between the infective HIV strain and the immunological and clinical outcomes. The impact of immune cell activation, exhaustion and senescence on HIV disease progression will be investigated. The association of infective HIV subtypes with specific pro-/anti- inflammatory patterns will be evaluated. Extended genetic analysis for characterization of the HIV strains (type, recombination patterns, phylogenetic relatedness, resistance mutations, tropism usage, intra and inter host variability) will be performed. The study is expected to provide information that can be used in designing specific health policies for infection control adapted to distinct populations at risk and/or infecting strain(s).

This project proposal will continue the study of HIV-1 infected IDUs by extended the genetic analysis of the viral isolates (to assess the viral evolution within this risk group and possible spreading to other persons by sexual contact) and adding new perspectives: clinical and immunological. The main purpose of the research project is to determine the inter-connection between the infective HIV strain and immunological and clinical outcome in order to optimize the treatment management of HIV infection and helping the development of specific disease control strategies.

Expected results: The data generated through this research project will be presented at relevant conferences in HIV field and/or published as a full paper in an ISI Journal

Project team (National Institute for Infectious Diseases “Matei Bals”):
Simona Paraschiv, PhD – team leader
Leontina Banica, PhD
Nicolae Ionelia, MS
Adrian Abagiu, MD, PhD
Raluca Jipa, MD, PhD student
Ovidiu Vlaicu, PhD student
Emil Neaga, PhD

Funding: 550000 RON, UEFISCDI, contract number 260/01.10.2015

Period: Oct 2015- Sept 2017 (24 months)

Results dissemination

Extracellular Cyclophilin A - inflammatory mediator in HIV infected patients; Ovidiu Vlaicu, Leontina Banica, Simona Paraschiv, Ana-Maria Tudor, Ruxandra Moroti, Dan Otelea. – oral presentation at 8th National Congress HIV/AIDS and the 3rd Central European HIV Forum, May 5-7, 2016, Sibiu, Romania, BMC Infectious Diseases 2016 16(Suppl 3):290; O 11, pag 5

Inflammation markers and effectors in long time infected and newly diagnosed HIV patients; Leontina Banica, Ovidiu Vlaicu, Ana Maria Tudor, Ruxandra Moroti, Mihaela Fratila, Simona Paraschiv and Dan Otelea - oral presentation at Academician Nicolae Cajal Symposium of the Romanian Academy of Medical Sciences; 17-19 March 2016; Bucharest, Romania; Journal of Translational Medicine and Research, Supplement I / Vol. 21 / 2016, OP 01, pag S3

Immune dysfunction in Romanian Injecting Drug Users infected with different HIV-1 strains. Ovidiu Vlaicu*, Leontina Banica, Raluca Jipa, Adrian Abagiu, Dan Otelea and Simona Paraschiv. - poster presentation at 15th European Meeting on HIV & Hepatitis, June 2017, Rome. Reviews in Antiviral Therapy & Infectious Diseases 2017_4, abstract 26, pag 32.

The many faces of traveling viruses. Simona Paraschiv – oral presentation at 3rd edition of Travel Medicine Conference, September 2017, Bucharest

Immune dysfunction in patients infected with HIV related to entry site. Leontina Banica*, Ovidiu Vlaicu, Simona Paraschiv, Raluca Jipa, Adrian Abagiu and Dan Otelea, Abstract accepted at 13th Edition of the Scientific Days of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases “Prof. Dr. Matei Balș”, Bucharest, 08-10 November 2017

Epidemic dispersion of HIV and HCV in a population of co-infected Romanian injecting drug users. Simona Paraschiv+, Leontina Banica+, Ionelia Nicolae, Iulia Niculescu, Adrian Abagiu, Raluca Jipa, Andrea-Clemencia Pineda-Peña, Marta Pingarilho, Emil Neaga, Kristof Theys, Pieter Libin, Dan Otelea and Ana Abecasis (+ equal contribution). Full research article accepted in PlosOne

NGS combined with phylogenetic analysis to detect HIV-1 dual infection in Romanian people who inject drugs. Bogdan Popescu, Leontina Banica, Ionelia Batan, Eugen Radu, Iulia Niculescu, Adrian Abagiu, Dan Otelea and Simona Paraschiv. Research note submitted to Clinical Microbiology and Infection