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2.  Impact of Antiretroviral Therapy on Health-Related Quality of Life among South African Women in the CAPRISA 002 Acute Infection Study 
AIDS and behavior  2014;18(9):1801-1807.
Concerns are often raised regarding potentially adverse effects of antiretroviral therapy (ART) on health-related quality of life (HRQoL), but there is limited longitudinal data to prove this. Building on our prior investigation, we examined the impact of ART on HRQoL among HIV-infected South African women with extensive follow-up in the CAPRISA 002 Acute Infection Cohort Study. Overall HRQoL and five sub-domains [physical well-being (PWB), emotional well-being (EWB), functional and global well-being (FGWB), social well-being (SWB) and cognitive functioning (CF)] were assessed using the Functional Assessment of HIV Infection (FAHI) instrument. Our analyses comparing FAHI scores between pre-ART (established infection) and ART phases using paired Wilcoxon signed-rank tests and adjusted mixed-effects regression models revealed improvements on ART in overall HRQoL, and in PWB, EWB, and SWB, but not in FGWB and CF. No long-term adverse impact of ART on HRQoL was detected, providing additional non-biomedical support to early treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC4127113  PMID: 24849623
Health-related quality of life; South Africa; Acute HIV infection; Functional assessment of HIV infection; ART
3.  Incidence and Geographic Distribution of Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0132076.
South Africa is experiencing a widespread drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic, although data are limited regarding the current situation. This study finds that the extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) incidence in KwaZulu-Natal increased to 3.5 cases/100,000 (776 cases) in 2011-2012. XDR-TB cases are widely distributed geographically, with the majority of districts experiencing a rise in incidence.
PMCID: PMC4493033  PMID: 26147963
4.  Health-Related Quality of Life Dynamics of HIV-positive South African Women up to ART Initiation: Evidence from the CAPRISA 002 Acute Infection Cohort Study 
AIDS and behavior  2014;18(6):1114-1123.
Few studies have investigated the long-term dynamics in health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among HIV-positive persons from acute infection. From 2004, 160 women were enrolled into the CAPRISA 002 Acute Infection study at two sites in the province of KwaZulu-Natal and underwent 3–6 monthly HRQoL assessments using the functional assessment of HIV infection (FAHI) instrument. Overall and 5 sub-scale FAHI scores [physical well-being (PWB), emotional well-being (EWB), functional and global well-being (FGWB), social well-being (SWB) and cognitive functioning (CF)] were calculated up to antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation and scores at enrollment were compared to the acute, early and established infection phases. Mixed-effects regression models adjusting for behavioral and clinical factors were applied to assess HRQoL trends and the proportion of women meeting minimally important differences was calculated. Our analyses revealed that overall/sub-scale scores improved over time, except from PWB and CF. A higher educational status, contraceptive use and a higher BMI were the strongest predictors of higher overall/sub-scale FAHI scores. CD4 count and HIV viral load were strongly associated with PWB and CF, but not overall FAHI and other sub-scales. Women newly diagnosed with acute HIV infection face profound HRQoL challenges. While early ART delivery may be important for PWB and CF, factors such as education, contraception provision and good nutritional status should be promoted to maximize HRQoL in HIV positive individuals.
PMCID: PMC4020968  PMID: 24368630
Health-related quality of life; South Africa; Acute HIV infection; Functional assessment of HIV infection
5.  The phase 2b HVTN 503/Phambili study test-of-concept HIV vaccine study, investigating a recombinant adenovirus type 5 HIV gag/pol/nef vaccine in South Africa: unblinded, long-term follow-up 
The Lancet. Infectious diseases  2014;14(5):388-396.
The Phambili study, conducted in South Africa amongst a predominantly heterosexual population, evaluated the efficacy of the MRK Ad5 gag/pol/nef subtype B HIV-1 preventive vaccine. Enrollment and vaccinations were stopped, participants unblinded, and follow-up extended when the Step study evaluating the same vaccine in the Americas, Caribbean and Australia was unblinded for non-efficacy with more HIV infections amongst vaccinee than placebo recipients [ZM1]. Extensive analyses over the complete follow-up period, most of which was unblinded, are reported.
Phambili participants were HIV-1 uninfected, sexually active men and women aged 18–35 years, followed for 3.5 years. HIV testing and risk reduction counseling occurred at weeks 0, 12, 30 and were switched to a 3 monthly schedule after unblinding. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate HIV-1 infection hazard ratios (HR) comparing vaccine to placebo recipients, overall and within subgroups. Long-term vaccine efficacy was evaluated in participants who were unblinded early in follow-up.
Of the 801 participants enrolled (400 vaccine, 401 placebo), 112 (28%) received 1 vaccination, 259 (65%) 2 vaccinations and 29(7%) 3 vaccinations. More infections occurred in vaccinees (n=63) as compared to placebo (n=37) (adjusted HR (vaccine:placebo) 1.70, 95% CI 1.13–2.55, p = 0.01). We found no increase in infections with the number of vaccinations received and that the HRs did not differ by gender, circumcision, or Ad5 serostatus. Differences in risk behavior at baseline or during the study, or differential drop-out (p=0.40) are unlikely explanations for the increased rate of HIV-1 infections seen in vaccinees.
The increased HR of HIV-1 acquisition, irrespective of number of doses received, warrants further investigation to understand the biological mechanism. Further use of the Ad5 vector for HIV vaccines is not warranted
PMCID: PMC4174314  PMID: 24560541
HIV; rAd5 HIV vaccines; HIV-1 vaccine efficacy studies; South Africa
6.  Posttraumatic Brain Abscess Caused by Aeromonas hydrophila 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;52(5):1796-1797.
Posttraumatic brain abscesses are usually caused by Gram-negative bacilli, notably Enterobacteriaceae and Staphylococcus aureus. Although Aeromonas hydrophila is a recognized cause of trauma-related sepsis, it has not been previously isolated from posttraumatic brain abscesses. We describe the first case of Aeromonas hydrophila brain abscess.
PMCID: PMC3993702  PMID: 24622098
7.  TRIM5α and TRIM22 Are Differentially Regulated According to HIV-1 Infection Phase and Compartment 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(8):4291-4303.
The antiviral role of TRIM E3 ligases in vivo is not fully understood. To test the hypothesis that TRIM5α and TRIM22 have differential transcriptional regulation and distinct anti-HIV roles according to infection phase and compartment, we measured TRIM5α, TRIM22, and type I interferon (IFN-I)-inducible myxovirus resistance protein A (MxA) levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) during primary and chronic HIV-1 infection, with chronic infection samples being matched PBMCs and central nervous system (CNS)-derived cells. Associations with biomarkers of disease progression were explored. The impact of IFN-I, select proinflammatory cytokines, and HIV on TRIM E3 ligase-specific expression was investigated. PBMCs from individuals with primary and chronic HIV-1 infection had significantly higher levels of MxA and TRIM22 than did PBMCs from HIV-1-negative individuals (P < 0.05 for all comparisons). PBMCs from chronic infection had lower levels of TRIM5α than did PBMCs from primary infection or HIV-1-uninfected PBMCs (P = 0.0001 for both). In matched CNS-derived samples and PBMCs, higher levels of MxA (P = 0.001) and TRIM5α (P = 0.0001) in the CNS were noted. There was a negative correlation between TRIM22 levels in PBMCs and plasma viral load (r = −0.40; P = 0.04). In vitro, IFN-I and, rarely, proinflammatory cytokines induced TRIM5α and TRIM22 in a cell type-dependent manner, and the knockdown of either protein in CD4+ lymphocytes resulted in increased HIV-1 infection. These data suggest that there are infection-phase-specific and anatomically compartmentalized differences in TRIM5α and TRIM22 regulation involving primarily IFN-I and specific cell types and indicate subtle differences in the antiviral roles and transcriptional regulation of TRIM E3 ligases in vivo.
IMPORTANCE Type I interferon-inducible TRIM E3 ligases are a family of intracellular proteins with potent antiviral activities mediated through diverse mechanisms. However, little is known about the contribution of these proteins to antiviral immunity in vivo and how their expression is regulated. We show here that TRIM5α and TRIM22, two prominent members of the family, have different expression patterns in vivo and that the expression pattern depends on HIV-1 infection status and phase. Furthermore, expression differs in peripheral blood versus central nervous system anatomical sites of infection. Only TRIM22 expression correlated negatively with HIV-1 viral load, but gene silencing of both proteins enhances HIV-1 infection of target cells. We report subtle differences in TRIM5α and TRIM22 gene induction by IFN-I and proinflammatory cytokines in CD4+ lymphocytes, monocytes, and neuronal cells. This study enhances our understanding of antiviral immunity by intrinsic antiviral factors and how their expression is determined.
PMCID: PMC3993776  PMID: 24478420
8.  Effects of introducing Xpert MTB/RIF test on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis diagnosis in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:442.
An algorithm instituted following Xpert MTB/RIF (Xpert) introduction in South Africa advocates for treating all Xpert rifampicin resistant patients as MDR-TB cases while awaiting confirmation by phenotypic or genotypic drug susceptibility testing. This study evaluates how the Xpert has influenced the diagnosis and management of drug resistant TB in the highest burdened district of KwaZulu-Natal Province.
Data was retrospectively collected from all patients with rifampicin resistance on Xpert performed between March 2011 and April 2012. Xpert results were compared with those of phenotypic and/genotypic drug susceptibility testing. Patients’ records were used to determine the time to treatment initiation.
Out of 637 patients tested by Xpert, 50% had confirmatory results, of which a third were sent on the same day as Xpert test. The rate of rifampicin discordance and monoresistance was 8.8% and 13.4% respectively and there was no difference between phenotypic and genotypic confirmation. Among those who had been initiated on treatment, 28%, 40%, 21% and 8% of patients commenced within 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months and 3 months of Xpert testing respectively, while the remaining 3% were observed without treatment.
This study emphasizes the importance of complying with the algorithm in confirming all Xpert rif resistant cases so as to ensure proper management of these patients. Despite the rapidity of the Xpert results, only about 70% of patients had been initiated treatment at one month. Therefore there is a definite need to improve the health systems in order to improve on these delays.
PMCID: PMC4141089  PMID: 25129689
Xpert; Rifampicin; Resistant; MTB; South Africa
9.  Predictors of HVTN 503 MRK-AD5 HIV-1 gag/pol/nef Vaccine Induced Immune Responses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103446.
Phambili, the Merck (MRK)-Adenovirus Type 5 (Ad5) HIV-1 gag/pol/nef subtype B vaccine study, conducted in South Africa, suspended enrollment and vaccination when companion study, Step, was found non-efficacious. Although the vaccine did not prevent HIV-1 infection or lower viral-load setpoint, immune responses recognized clades B and C HIV-1 subtypes. We investigated predictors of the vaccine-induced antigen-specific immune responses.
Vaccine-induced immunogenicity was ascertained by interferon-γ ELISpot assays on the first 186 enrolled participants receiving two vaccinations. Analyses, stratified by study arm/sex, were performed on baseline demographics [sex, age, Body Mass Index (BMI), site, Adenovirus Type-5 (Ad5) titer, Herpes Simplex Virus Type-2 (HSV2) status, heavy drinking]. Multivariate logistic regression determined predictors.
Of the 186 participants, 53.7% (n = 100) were female, median BMI was 22.5 [IQR: 20.4–27.0], 85.5% (n = 159) were Ad5 seropositive, and 18.8% (n = 35) drank heavily. All vaccine recipients responded to both clade B (n = 87; 47%) and/or C (n = 74; 40%), p = 0.17. In multivariate analysis, female sex [Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR): 6.478; p = 0.0159], overweight/obese BMI (AOR: 0.186; p = 0.0452), and heavy drinking (AOR: 0.270; p = 0.048) significantly predicted immune response to clade C for any antigens. A marginally significant predictor of clade C-pol antigen was female sex (AOR: 3.182; p = 0.0500).
Sex, BMI, and heavy drinking affected vaccine-induced HIV-1 specific immune responses to clade C antigens. The role of female sex and overweight/obese BMI boosting and suppressing vaccine-induced HIV-1 specific immune responses, respectively, requires elucidation, including any effect on HIV vaccine efficacy, especially in the era of colliding epidemics (HIV and obesity).
PMCID: PMC4121165  PMID: 25090110
10.  Differential Impact of Magnitude, Polyfunctional Capacity, and Specificity of HIV-Specific CD8+ T Cell Responses on HIV Set Point 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(3):1819-1824.
Defining the characteristics of HIV-specific CD8+ T cell responses that lead to viral control is crucial for vaccine development. We evaluated the differential impact of magnitude, polyfunctional capacity, and specificity of the CD8+ response at approximately 6 months postinfection on the viral set point at 12 months in a cohort of HIV-infected individuals. High frequencies of Gag and Nef responses endowed with four functions were the best predictors of a low viral set point.
PMCID: PMC3911608  PMID: 24227857
11.  The HVTN503/Phambili HIV vaccine trial: a comparison of younger and older participants 
By comparing younger to older participants enrolled in a HIV vaccine efficacy trial, we aimed to gain insights into the inclusion of adolescents in future trials. This was a sub-analysis of a multisite HIV vaccine randomized clinical trial in South Africa, conducted January-September, 2007. Motivations for trial enrollment, social harms, adverse events, and loss to follow-up were compared between younger (18-20 years old) and older participants (21-35 years old). Both younger (n=238) and older participants (n=563) were equally likely to report enrolling for altruistic reasons. Younger females were less likely than older participants to join for trial reimbursement (p=0.005), while younger males were more likely to enroll because the vaccine may provide protection from HIV-acquisition (p<0.001). There were no significant differences in the number of social harms reported. Compared to males over 20 years-old, 18-20-year-old females were less likely to experience adverse events (OR=0.1, CI 0.01-0.80) and no more likely to be lost to follow up (OR=0.7, CI 0.39-1.25), while 18-20-year-old males were no more likely to experience adverse events (OR=1.3, CI 0.58-2.83) or loss to follow-up (OR=0.8, CI 0.51-1.41). Our data support the inclusion of younger participants who are at risk for HIV in future HIV vaccine efficacy trials.
PMCID: PMC3968181  PMID: 24104693
HIV; vaccine trials; clinical trials; youth; South Africa
12.  Rapid, complex adaption of transmitted HIV-1 full-length genomes in subtype C-infected individuals with differing disease progression 
AIDS (London, England)  2013;27(4):507-518.
There is limited information on full-length genome sequences and the early evolution of transmitted HIV-1 subtype C viruses, which constitute the majority of viruses spread in Africa. The purpose of this study was to characterize the earliest changes across the genome of subtype C viruses following transmission, to better understand early control of viremia.
We derived the near full-length genome sequence responsible for clinical infection from five HIV subtype C-infected individuals with different disease progression profiles and tracked adaption to immune responses in the first six months of infection.
Near full-length genomes were generated by single genome amplification and direct sequencing. Sequences were analyzed for amino acid mutations associated with cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) or antibody (Ab)-mediated immune pressure, and for reversion.
Fifty-five sequence changes associated with adaptation to the new host were identified with 38% attributed to CTL pressure; 35% to antibody pressure; 16% to reversions and the remainder were unclassified. Mutations in CTL epitopes were most frequent in the first 5 weeks of infection, with the frequency declining over time with the decline in viral load. CTL escape predominantly occurred in nef, followed by pol and env. Shuffling/toggling of mutations was identified in 81% of CTL epitopes with only 7% reaching fixation within the six month period.
There was rapid virus adaptation following transmission, predominantly driven by CTL pressure, with most changes occurring during high viremia. Rapid escape and complex escape pathways provide further challenges for vaccine protection.
PMCID: PMC3720865  PMID: 23370465
HIV-1; Africa; genome; acute infection; cytotoxic T-lymphocytes; progression
13.  Rifampicin Mono-Resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: A Significant Phenomenon in a High Prevalence TB-HIV Region 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e77712.
The dual epidemics of HIV-TB including MDR-TB are major contributors to high morbidity and mortality rates in South Africa. Rifampicin (RIF) resistance is regarded as a proxy for MDR-TB. Currently available molecular assays have the advantage of rapidly detecting resistant strains of MTB, but the GeneXpert does not detect isoniazid (INH) resistance and the GenoTypeMTBDRplus(LPA) assay may underestimate resistance to INH. Increasing proportions of rifampicin mono-resistance resistance (RMR) have recently been reported from South Africa and other countries.
This laboratory based study was conducted at NHLS TB Laboratory, Durban, which is the reference laboratory for culture and susceptibility testing in KwaZulu-Natal. We retrospectively determined, for the period 2007 to 2009, the proportion of RMR amongst Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) isolates, that were tested for both RIF and INH, using the gold standard of culture based phenotypic drug susceptibility testing (DST). Gender and age were also analysed to identify possible risk factors for RMR.
MTB culture positive sputum samples from 16,748 patients were analysed for susceptibility to RIF and INH during the period 2007 to 2009. RMR was defined as MTB resistant to RIF and susceptible to INH. For the purposes of this study, only the first specimen from each patient was included in the analysis.
RMR was observed throughout the study period. The proportion of RMR varied from a low of 7.3% to a high of 10.0% [overall 8.8%]. Overall, males had a 42% increased odds of being RMR as compared to females. In comparison to the 50 plus age group, RMR was 37% more likely to occur in the 25–29 year age category.
We report higher proportions of RMR ranging from 7.3% to 10% [overall 8.8%] than previously reported in the literature. To avoid misclassification of RMR, detected by the GeneXpert, as MDR-TB, culture based phenotypic DST must be performed on a second specimen, as recommended by the SA NDOH TB guidelines as well as WHO. We suggest that two sputum samples should be obtained at the first visit. The second sputum sample should be stored at 4°C. The latter sample is then readily available for performing additional DST (phenotypic or genotypic) for 2nd lines drugs, resulting in a decreased waiting period for DST results to become available.
PMCID: PMC3819362  PMID: 24223122
14.  Symptomatic Vaginal Discharge Is a Poor Predictor of Sexually Transmitted Infections and Genital Tract Inflammation in High-Risk Women in South Africa 
Background. Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is a public health priority, particularly in regions where the incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is high. In most developing countries, STIs are managed syndromically. We assessed the adequacy of syndromic diagnosis of STIs, compared with laboratory diagnosis of STIs, and evaluated the association between STI diagnosis and the risk of HIV acquisition in a cohort of high-risk women.
Methods. HIV-uninfected high-risk women (n = 242) were followed for 24 months. Symptoms of STIs were recorded, and laboratory diagnosis of common STI pathogens was conducted every 6 months. Forty-two cytokines were measured by Luminex in cervicovaginal lavage specimens at enrollment. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection was evaluated monthly.
Results. Only 12.3% of women (25 of 204) who had a laboratory-diagnosed, discharge-causing STI had clinically evident discharge. Vaginal discharge was thus a poor predictor of laboratory-diagnosed STIs (sensitivity, 12.3%; specificity, 93.8%). Cervicovaginal cytokine concentrations did not differ between women with asymptomatic STIs and those with symptomatic STIs and were elevated in women with asymptomatic STIs, compared with women with no STIs or bacterial vaginosis. Although laboratory-diagnosed STIs were associated with increased risk of HIV infection (hazard ratio, 3.3 [95% confidence interval, 1.5–7.2)], clinical symptoms were not.
Conclusions. Syndromic STI diagnosis dependent on vaginal discharge was poorly predictive of laboratory-diagnosed STI. Laboratory-diagnosed STIs were associated with increased susceptibility to HIV acquisition, while vaginal discharge was not.
PMCID: PMC3490689  PMID: 22517910
15.  Intersubtype Differences in the Effect of a Rare p24 Gag Mutation on HIV-1 Replicative Fitness 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(24):13423-13433.
Certain immune-driven mutations in HIV-1, such as those arising in p24Gag, decrease viral replicative capacity. However, the intersubtype differences in the replicative consequences of such mutations have not been explored. In HIV-1 subtype B, the p24Gag M250I mutation is a rare variant (0.6%) that is enriched among elite controllers (7.2%) (P = 0.0005) and appears to be a rare escape variant selected by HLA-B58 supertype alleles (P < 0.01). In contrast, in subtype C, it is a relatively common minor polymorphic variant (10 to 15%) whose appearance is not associated with a particular HLA allele. Using site-directed mutant viruses, we demonstrate that M250I reduces in vitro viral replicative capacity in both subtype B and subtype C sequences. However, whereas in subtype C downstream compensatory mutations at p24Gag codons 252 and 260 reduce the adverse effects of M250I, fitness costs in subtype B appear difficult to restore. Indeed, patient-derived subtype B sequences harboring M250I exhibited in vitro replicative defects, while those from subtype C did not. The structural implications of M250I were predicted by protein modeling to be greater in subtype B versus C, providing a potential explanation for its lower frequency and enhanced replicative defects in subtype B. In addition to accounting for genetic differences between HIV-1 subtypes, the design of cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte-based vaccines may need to account for differential effects of host-driven viral evolution on viral fitness.
PMCID: PMC3503133  PMID: 23015721
16.  Increased memory differentiation is associated with decreased polyfunctionality for HIV but not for CMV-specific CD8+ T cells 
The generation of polyfunctional CD8+ T cells, in response to vaccination or natural infection, has been associated with improved protective immunity. However, it is unclear whether the maintenance of polyfunctionality is related to particular cellular phenotypic characteristics. To determine whether the cytokine expression profile is linked to the memory differentiation stage, we analyzed the degree of polyfunctionality of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells within different memory subpopulations in 20 ART-naïve HIV-1 infected individuals at approximately 34 weeks post infection. These profiles were compared with CMV-specific CD8+ T cell responses in HIV-uninfected controls and in individuals chronically infected with HIV. Our results showed that the polyfunctional abilities of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells differed according to their memory phenotype. Early-differentiated cells (CD45RO+CD27+) exhibited a higher proportion of cells positive for three or four functions (p<0.001), and a lower proportion of mono-functional cells (p<0.001) compared to terminally-differentiated (CD45RO−CD27−) HIV-specific CD8+ T cells. The majority of terminally-differentiated HIV-specific CD8+ T cells were mono-functional (median 69% [IQR: 57–83]), producing predominantly CD107a or MIP1β. Moreover, proportions of HIV-specific mono-functional CD8+ T cells positively associated with proportions of terminally-differentiated HIV-specific CD8+ T cells (p=0.019, r=0.54). In contrast, CMV-specific CD8+ T cell polyfunctional capacities were similar across all memory subpopulations, with terminally- and early-differentiated cells endowed with comparable polyfunctionality. Overall, these data show that the polyfunctional abilities of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells are influenced by the stage of memory differentiation, which is not the case for CMV-specific responses.
PMCID: PMC3466366  PMID: 22966086
17.  Co-enrollment in multiple HIV prevention trials – Experiences from the CAPRISA 004 Tenofovir gel trial 
Contemporary clinical trials  2011;32(3):333-338.
In settings where multiple HIV prevention trials are conducted in close proximity, trial participants may attempt to enroll in more than one trial simultaneously. Co-enrollment impacts on participant’s safety and validity of trial results. We describe our experience, remedial action taken, inter-organizational collaboration and lessons learnt following the identification of co-enrolled participants.
Between February and April 2008, we identified 185 of the 398 enrolled participants as ineligible. In violation of the study protocol exclusion criteria, there was simultaneous enrollment in another HIV prevention trial (ineligible co-enrolled, n=135), and enrollment of women who had participated in a microbicide trial within the past 12 months (ineligible not co-enrolled, n=50). Following a complete audit of all enrolled participants, ineligible participants were discontinued via study exit visits from trial follow-up. Custom-designed education program on co-enrollment impacting on participants’ safety and validity of the trial results were implemented. Shared electronic database between research units were established to enable verification of each volunteer’s trial participation and to prevent future co-enrollments.
Lessons Learnt
Interviews with ineligible enrolled women revealed that high-quality care; financial incentives; altruistic motives; preference for sex with gel; wanting to increase their likelihood of receiving active gel; perceived low risk of discovery and peer pressure as the reasons for their enrolment in the CAPRISA 004 trial.
Instituting education programs based on the reasons reported by women for seeking enrolment in more than one trial and using a shared central database system to identify co-enrollments have effectively prevented further co-enrollments.
PMCID: PMC3616246  PMID: 21278001
HIV prevention trials; co-enrollment; young women
18.  Genital Tract Inflammation During Early HIV-1 Infection Predicts Higher Plasma Viral Load Set Point in Women 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;205(2):194-203.
Background. The biggest challenge in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) prevention in Africa is the high HIV-1 burden in young women. In macaques, proinflammatory cytokine production in the genital tract is necessary for target cell recruitment and establishment of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection following vaginal inoculation. The purpose of this study was to assess if genital inflammation during early HIV-1 infection predisposes women to rapid disease progression.
Methods. Inflammatory cytokine concentrations were measured in cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) from 49 women 6, 17, 30, and 55 weeks after HIV-1 infection and from 22 of these women before infection. Associations between genital inflammation and viral load set point and blood CD4 cell counts 12 months after infection were investigated.
Results. Elevated genital cytokine concentrations 6 and 17 weeks after HIV-1 infection were associated with higher viral load set points and, to a lesser extent, with CD4 depletion. CVL cytokine concentrations during early infection did not differ relative to preinfection but were elevated in women who had vaginal discharge, detectable HIV-1 RNA in their genital tracts, and lower blood CD4 counts.
Conclusion. Genital inflammation during early HIV-1 infection was associated with higher viral load set point and CD4 depletion, which are markers of rapid disease progression. Strategies aimed at reducing genital inflammation during early HIV-1 infection may slow disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3244362  PMID: 22190580
19.  Short Communication Decreased Incidence of Dual Infections in South African Subtype C-Infected Women Compared to a Cohort Ten Years Earlier 
AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses  2011;27(11):1167-1172.
Previously, we determined the incidence of dual infections in a South African cohort and its association with higher viral setpoint. Ten years later, we compare the incidence and impact of dual infections at transmission on viral setpoint in a geographically similar cohort (n =  46) making use of both the heteroduplex mobility assay (HMA) and the more recent single genome amplification (SGA) approach. HIV incidence was lower in this cohort (7% compared to 18%), and we find a similar reduction in the number of dual infections (9% compared to 19%). Unlike the previous study, there was no association between either dual infection (n =  4) or multivariant transmission (n =  7) and disease progression. This study emphasized the importance of monitoring changes in the HIV epidemic as it may have important ramifications on our understanding of the natural history of disease.
PMCID: PMC3206740  PMID: 21198409
20.  APOBEC3G Expression is Dysregulated in Primary HIV-1 Infection and a Polymorphic Variant Influences CD4+ T Cell Counts and Plasma Viral Load 
AIDS (London, England)  2010;24(2):195-204.
In the absence of HIV-1 Vif, cellular cytosine deaminases such as APOBEC3G, inhibit the virus by inducing hypermutations on viral DNA, among other mechanisms of action. We investigated the association of APOBEC3G mRNA levels and APOBEC3G genetic variants on HIV-1 susceptibility, and early disease pathogenesis using viral load and CD4+ T cell counts as outcomes.
Study subjects were 250 South African females at high risk for HIV-1C infection. We used quantitative real-time PCR to measure the expression of APOBEC3G in HIV−ve and HIV+ve primary infection samples. APOBEC3G variants were identified by DNA re-sequencing and TaqMan genotyping.
We found no correlation between APOBEC3G expression levels and plasma viral loads (r=0.053, p=0.596) or CD4+ T cell counts (r=0.030, p=0.762) in 32 seroconverters. However, APOBEC3G expression levels were significantly higher in HIV−ve individuals compared to HIV+ve individuals (p<0.0001), including matched pre- and post infection samples from the same individuals (n=13, p<0.0001). 25 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), nine of which were novel, were identified within APOBEC3G by re-sequencing followed by genotyping of 168 individuals. The H186R mutation, a codon changing variant in exon 4, was associated with high viral loads (p=0.0097) and decreased CD4+ T cell levels (p=0.0081).
These data suggest that APOBEC3G transcription is rapidly downregulated upon HIV-1 infection. During primary infection, APOBEC3G expression levels in PBMCs do not correlate with viral loads or CD4+ T cell counts. However, structural variation of APOBEC3G may significantly affect early HIV-1 pathogenesis, although the mechanism remains unclear and warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3470914  PMID: 19996938
APOBEC3G; HIV-1 C; Primary Infection; mRNA Expression; Polymorphisms; Host proteins
21.  Association of Polymorphisms in the LEDGF/p75 Gene (PSIP1) with Susceptibility to HIV-1 Infection and Disease Progression 
AIDS (London, England)  2011;25(14):1711-1719.
LEDGF/p75, encoded by the PSIP1 gene, interacts with HIV-1 integrase and targets HIV-1 integration into active genes. We investigated the influence of polymorphisms in PSIP1 on HIV-1 acquisition and disease progression in black South Africans.
Integrase binding domain (IBD) of LEDGF/p75 was sequenced in 126 participants. Four haplotype tagging SNPs, SNP1-SNP4 and one exonic SNP, SNP5 were genotyped in 195 HIV-1 seronegative, 52 primary and 403 chronically infected individuals using TaqMan assays. LEDGF/p75 expression was quantified by real-time RT-PCR. The impact of Q472L mutation on the interaction with HIV-1 IN was measured by AlphaScreen.
rs2277191A was more frequent among seropositives (p=0.06, Fisher's exact test), and among individuals followed longitudinally trended towards association with higher likelihood of HIV-1 acquisition (RH=2.21, p=0.08; Cox model) and it was also associated with rapid disease progression (RH=5.98, p=0.04; Cox model). rs12339417C was associated with slower decline of CD4+ T cell (p=0.02) and lower levels of LEDGF/p75 (p<0.01). Seroconverters had higher preinfection levels of LEDGF/p75 (p<0.01) but levels decreased after HIV infection (p=0.02).
Genetic variants of PSIP1 may affect HIV-1 outcomes. Further studies are needed to confirm the effect of genetic variation of PSIP1 on HIV-1 pathogenesis in different cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3233670  PMID: 21681054
22.  Mannose-rich glycosylation patterns on HIV-1 subtype C gp120 and sensitivity to the lectins, Griffithsin, Cyanovirin-N and Scytovirin 
Virology  2010;402(1):187-196.
Griffithsin (GRFT), Cyanovirin-N (CV-N) and Scytovirin (SVN) are lectins that inhibit HIV-1 infection by binding to multiple mannose-rich glycans on the HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins (Env). Here we show that these lectins neutralize subtype C primary virus isolates in addition to Env-pseudotyped viruses obtained from plasma and cervical vaginal lavages. Among 15 subtype C pseudoviruses, the median IC50 values were 0.4, 1.8 and 20.1 nM for GRFT, CV-N and SVN, respectively, similar to what was found for subtype B and A. Analysis of Env sequences suggested that concomitant lack of glycans at positions 234 and 295 resulted in natural resistance to these compounds, which was confirmed by site-directed mutagenesis. Furthermore, the binding sites for these lectins overlapped that of the 2G12 monoclonal antibody epitope, which is generally absent on subtype C Env. This data support further research on these lectins as potential microbicides in the context of HIV-1 subtype C infection.
PMCID: PMC3401642  PMID: 20392471
Griffithsin; Cyanovirin-N; Scytovirin; lectins; HIV-1 subtype C; microbicides; 2G12 monoclonal antibody
23.  Duffy-Null–Associated Low Neutrophil Counts Influence HIV-1 Susceptibility in High-Risk South African Black Women 
The Duffy-null trait and ethnic neutropenia are highly prevalent in Africa. The authors found that the trait of Duffy-null–associated low neutrophil counts associated with increased HIV-1 susceptibility. The possible contribution of this trait to the high prevalence of HIV-1 in Africa requires further investigation
Background. The Duffy-null trait and ethnic netropenia are both highly prevalent in Africa. The influence of pre-seroconversion levels of peripheral blood cell counts (PBCs) on the risk of acquiring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–1 infection among Africans is unknown.
Methods. The triangular relationship among pre-seroconversion PBC counts, host genotypes, and risk of HIV acquisition was determined in a prospective cohort of black South African high-risk female sex workers. Twenty-seven women had seroconversion during follow-up, and 115 remained HIV negative for 2 years, despite engaging in high-risk activity.
Results. Pre-seroconversion neutrophil counts in women who subsequently had seroconversion were significantly lower, whereas platelet counts were higher, compared with those who remained HIV negative. Comprising 27% of the cohort, subjects with pre-seroconversion neutrophil counts of <2500 cells/mm3 had a ∼3-fold greater risk of acquiring HIV infection. In a genome-wide association analyses, an African-specific polymorphism (rs2814778) in the promoter of Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC −46T > C) was significantly associated with neutrophil counts (P = 7.9 × 10−11). DARC −46C/C results in loss of DARC expression on erthyrocytes (Duffy-null) and resistance to Plasmodium vivax malaria, and in our cohort, only subjects with this genotype had pre-seroconversion neutrophil counts of <2500 cells/mm3. The risk of acquiring HIV infection was ∼3-fold greater in those with the trait of Duffy-null–associated low neutrophil counts, compared with all other study participants.
Conclusions. Pre-seroconversion neutrophil and platelet counts influence risk of HIV infection. The trait of Duffy-null–associated low neutrophil counts influences HIV susceptibility. Because of the high prevalence of this trait among persons of African ancestry, it may contribute to the dynamics of the HIV epidemic in Africa.
PMCID: PMC3115278  PMID: 21507922
24.  Pregnancy Incidence and Correlates during the HVTN 503 Phambili HIV Vaccine Trial Conducted among South African Women 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e31387.
HIV prevention trials are increasingly being conducted in sub-Saharan Africa. Women at risk for HIV are also at risk of pregnancy. To maximize safety, women agree to avoid pregnancy during trials, yet pregnancies occur. Using data from the HVTN 503/“Phambili” vaccine trial, we report pregnancy incidence during and after the vaccination period and identify factors, measured at screening, associated with incident pregnancy.
To enrol in the trial, women agreed and were supported to avoid pregnancy until 1 month after their third and final vaccination (“vaccination period”), corresponding to the first 7 months of follow-up. Unsterilized women, pooled across study arms, were analyzed. Poisson regression compared pregnancy rates during and after the vaccination period. Cox proportional hazards regression identified associations with first pregnancy.
Among 352 women (median age 23 yrs; median follow-up 1.5 yrs), pregnancy incidence was 9.6/100 women-years overall and 6.8/100 w-yrs and 11.3/100 w-yrs during and after the vaccination period, respectively [Rate Ratio = 0.60 (0.32–1.14), p = 0.10]. In multivariable analysis, pregnancy was reduced among women who: enrolled at sites providing contraception on-site [HR = 0.43, 95% CI (0.22–0.86)]; entered the trial as injectable contraceptive users [HR = 0.37 (0.21–0.67)] or as consistent condom users (trend) [HR = 0.54 (0.28–1.04)]. Compared with women with a single partner of HIV-unknown status, pregnancy rates were increased among women with: a single partner whose status was HIV-negative [HR = 2.34(1.16–4.73)] and; 2 partners both of HIV-unknown status [HR = 4.42(1.59–12.29)]. Women with 2 more of these risk factors: marijuana use, heavy drinking, or use of either during sex, had increased pregnancy incidence [HR = 2.66 (1.24–5.72)].
It is possible to screen South African women for pregnancy risk at trial entry. Providing injectable contraception for free on-site and supporting consistent condom use may reduce incident pregnancy. Screening should determine the substance use, partnering, and HIV status of both members of the couple for both pregnancy and HIV prevention.
Trial Registration
SA National Health Research Database DOH-27-0207-1539; NCT00413725
PMCID: PMC3331975  PMID: 22532824
25.  HIV Prevention in High-Risk Women in South Africa: Condom Use and the Need for Change 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30669.
Young women are at disproportionate risk of HIV infection in South Africa. Understanding risk behaviors and factors associated with ability to negotiate safe sex and condom use is likely to be key in curbing the spread of HIV. Traditionally prevention efforts have focused on creating behavioral changes by increasing knowledge about HIV/AIDS.
This was a cross-sectional analysis from a prospective observational cohort study of 245 women at a high-risk of HIV infection in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Participants demonstrated a high level of HIV/AIDS knowledge. Overall, 60.3% of participants reported condom use. Reported condom use at last sexual encounter varied slightly by partner type (57.0% with steady versus 64.4% with casual partners), and self-perceived ability to choose to use a condom was significantly lower with steady partners compared to casual partners (p<0.01). In multivariate analysis, women who had high school education were more likely to use condoms at their last sex encounter compared to those with only primary school education (RR of 1.36 (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.06–1.75) and 1.46 (95% CI 1.13–1.88) for grades 8–10 and 11–12, respectively). Those who used condoms as a contraceptive method were twice as likely to use condoms compared to women who did not report using them as a contraceptive method. Greater perceived ability to choose to use condoms was associated with higher self-reported condom use at last encounter, irrespective of partner type (RR = 2.65 (95% CI 2.15–32.5).
Self-perceived ability to use condoms, level of formal education and condom use as a contraceptive were all significantly associated with self-reported condom use at last sexual encounter. These findings suggest that that gender inequality and access to formal education, as opposed to lack of HIV/AIDS knowledge, prevent safer sexual practices in South Africa.
PMCID: PMC3281865  PMID: 22363467

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