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HIV virus spread and evolution studied through computer modeling
Date:11/19/2013

ucting HIV Epidemics from HIV Phylogenetics," the team has published 10 papers describing new mathematical models and results from real data addressing these issues. Most recently, they published a Nature correspondence on the limitations of HIV forensics and the need for better standards.

Who Infected Whom

A key question is on the fundamental limitations to the inference of who infected whom, based on a concept known as the pre-transmission interval (which this group first described back in 1999). Another publication, published in Epidemics, developed a new hybrid model to simulate and analyze the spread of HIV or other pathogens spread in a human population. The work also appeared in PLOS ONE Public Library of Science online publication.

As an example, the team modeled a Latvian HIV-1 epidemic, and they showed that injecting drug users fueled the heterosexual population, thereby sustaining the overall epidemic. The researchers are now expanding this hybrid model to also include HIV genetic evolution, which occurs in every infected individual.

The researchers have shown that in fast HIV epidemics such as among individuals injecting themselves with drugs HIV viral evolution is slow, resulting in little diversification at the population level. Meanwhile, slower-spreading epidemics display more HIV evolution over the same amount of time.

New Field of Phylodynamics Evolves

Understanding HIV's genetic evolution will soon allow investigations of how accurately researchers can reconstruct different epidemiological scenarios using pathogen genetic materials, an important and growing field called phylodynamics.

The team also has developed a new mathematical model that facilitates estimation of when a person was infected with HIV based on a previously used biomarker (BED IgG).

"This is important because most HIV infected persons are not discovered shortly after infect
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Contact: Nancy Ambrosiano
nwa@lanl.gov
505-667-0471
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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