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Vancouver team adds chapter to AIDS Encyclopedia

By Stefania Seccia

SFU graduate health science students Anh Le, left, and Aniqa Shahid have contributed a chapter to Encyclopedia of AIDS, which is the largest comprehensive reference work for HIV/AIDS researchers around the world.
(SUBMITTED)

SFU graduate health science students Anh Le, left, and Aniqa Shahid have contributed a chapter to Encyclopedia of AIDS, which is the largest comprehensive reference work for HIV/AIDS researchers around the world. (SUBMITTED)

Two graduate students from Simon Fraser University are aiding HIV/AIDS researchers across the globe to bring them closer to a cure by contributing a chapter to the international Encyclopedia of AIDS.

The chapter by Anh Le and Aniqa Shahid, graduate students completing their master of science degrees, is called HIV-1 Mutational Escape from Host Immunity, and it includes an overview of how HIV-1 evolves to adapt to immune responses within the infected person.

“We need to understand what’s going on in the host and how the HIV virus is adapting in the human host system,” Shahid said. “When we understand how it’s adapting, then only can we confront the virus and come up with ideas and methods for a vaccine.”

HIV-1 mutates readily, according to Shahid, and it has ways of evading human immune responses and adapts to various genetic traits.

“This topic is important because it clearly addresses the core issue of how the virus is adapting to its human host, and is the virus becoming more infectious or less infectious in its course of time and, hypothetically speaking, 50 years from now how the virus will be?” she said.

Le said while researchers are learning a lot about the virus’s behaviour, there are still knowledge gaps.

“It can be overwhelming, there’s quite a bit of literature to work through but having a one-stop shop to get information ... on all this hopefully makes it easier for researchers to come up with ideas.”

As for Shahid, she intends to return to her home country of Pakistan to help with the AIDS epidemic concentrated in high-risk groups, and prevent an outbreak in the general population.

Since the advent of AIDS, more than 39 million people worldwide have lost their lives to it, according to United Nations figures.

Canada, and particularly B.C., has been a global leader in treatment. The province has seen the most consistent declines – 95% in 20 years – in premature deaths.