MHRP Researcher Dr. Morgane Rolland on the Importance of Viral Genetics

MHRP’s Chief of Viral Genetics and Systems Serology Dr. Morgane Rolland has co-edited, together with Dr. Josh Herbeck, an edition of Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS devoted to HIV-1 phylogenetics. Dr. Rolland authored an editorial and review for the issue, focusing on how research into viral diversity can increase understanding of the epidemic and contribute to improved HIV vaccine candidates.

“HIV-1 epitomizes viral diversity with extensive variability across circulating strains and continuous diversification,” Dr. Rolland explained in the editorial. Phylogenetic analyses have shown that nine subtypes exist for the main group of HIV-1 viruses as well as almost a hundred circulating recombinant forms and unique recombinants.

Phylogenetics research can provide new insights in HIV epidemiology by providing new opportunities to uncover risk groups and transmission patterns not identified with more traditional methods. According to her review, Dr. Rolland also posits that incorporating findings based on the analysis of HIV diversity and evolution can help design better vaccine candidates.

“Although HIV-1 diversity is a critical barrier to HIV-1 vaccine development, implementing vaccine strategies that directly address HIV-1 genetic specificities has been challenging,” said Dr. Rolland. “More sequence data are generated, including through the PANGEA consortium described in the issue (Dr. Abeler-Dorner), thus we will have new options to address the questions raised by the different reviews.”

This edition of the journal contains 10 reviews, including five articles focusing on the hot topic of molecular epidemiology or phylogenetic networks. Leaders in this field, such as Drs. Emma Hodcroft, Thomas Leitner, Tulio de Oliveira, Art Poon, Manon Ragonnet-Cronin and Joel Wertheim, highlight the pros and cons of different approaches for phylogenetic clustering and describe recent advances, while Dr. Sanjay Mehta emphasizes the ethical challenges raised by new analysis methods combined with the aggregation of extensive information on infected individuals. Other articles in the issue provide a comprehensive overview of HIV-1 diversity worldwide (Dr. Nicholas Bbosa), the consequences of antiretroviral treatment seen through phylogenies (Dr. Bale) and the impact of HLA adaptation (Dr. Avila-Rios). 

The HIV phylogenetics issue of Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS can be found here: