Selected publications

Immunotherapeutic approaches to HIV cure and remission

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases

January 2022

Despite improvements in the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy (ART), there are still unmet needs for people living with HIV which drive the search for a cure for HIV infection. The goal of this review is to discuss the challenges and recent immunotherapeutic advances towards developing a safe, effective and durable cure strategy for HIV.

Human MAIT cells respond to and suppress HIV-1


24 December 2021

Human MAIT cells sit at the interface between innate and adaptive immunity, are polyfunctional and are capable of killing pathogen infected cells via recognition of the Class IB molecule MR1. MAIT cells have recently been shown to possess an antiviral protective role in vivo and we therefore sought to explore this in relation to HIV-1 infection. There was marked activation of MAIT cells in vivo in HIV-1-infected individuals, which decreased following ART. Stimulation of THP1 monocytes with R5 tropic HIVBAL potently activated MAIT cells in vitro. This activation was dependent on IL-12 and IL-18 but was independent of the TCR. Upon activation, MAIT cells were able to upregulate granzyme B, IFNγ and HIV-1 restriction factors CCL3, 4, and 5. Restriction factors produced by MAIT cells inhibited HIV-1 infection of primary PBMCs and immortalized target cells in vitro. These data reveal MAIT cells to be an additional T cell population responding to HIV-1, with a potentially important role in controlling viral replication at mucosal sites.

Safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 in HIV infection: a single-arm substudy of a phase 2/3 clinical trial

The Lancet

1st August 2021

The aims of this study was to explore safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine in people with HIV.

Data on vaccine immunogenicity against SARS-CoV-2 are needed for the 40 million people globally living with HIV who might have less functional immunity and more associated comorbidities than the general population. We aimed to explore safety and immunogenicity of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine in people with HIV.

In this single-arm open-label vaccination substudy within the protocol of the larger phase 2/3 trial COV002, adults aged 18–55 years with HIV were enrolled at two HIV clinics in London, UK.

In this study of people with HIV, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 was seen to be safe and immunogenic, supporting vaccination for those well controlled on ART.

HIV cure research in the time of COVID-19 - Antiretroviral therapy treatment interruption trials: A discussion paper

Journal of Virus Eradication

March 2021

This discussion paper addresses the safety of HIV cure studies, particularly those involving stopping antiretroviral therapy, known as an analytic treatment interruption (ATI) in the context of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Antiretroviral therapy alone versus antiretroviral therapy with a kick and kill approach, on measures of the HIV reservoir in participants with recent HIV infection (the RIVER trial): a phase 2, randomised trial

The Lancet

February 18, 2020

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) cannot cure HIV infection because of a persistent reservoir of latently infected cells. Approaches that force HIV transcription from these cells, making them susceptible to killing—termed kick and kill regimens—have been explored as a strategy towards an HIV cure. RIVER is the first randomised trial to determine the effect of ART-only versus ART plus kick and kill on markers of the HIV reservoir.

A G1-like state allows HIV-1 to bypass SAMHD1 restriction in macrophages

The EMBO Journal

March 1, 2017

An unresolved question is how HIV-1 achieves efficient replication in terminally differentiated macrophages despite the restriction factor SAMHD1. We reveal inducible changes in expression of cell cycle-associated proteins including MCM2 and cyclins A, E, D1/D3 in macrophages, without evidence for DNA synthesis or mitosis. These changes are induced by activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK kinase cascade, culminating in upregulation of CDK1 with subsequent SAMHD1 T592 phosphorylation and deactivation of its antiviral activity. HIV infection is limited to these G1-like phase macrophages at the single-cell level. Depletion of SAMHD1 in macrophages decouples the association between infection and expression of cell cycle-associated proteins, with terminally differentiated macrophages becoming highly susceptible to HIV-1. We observe both embryo-derived and monocyte-derived tissue-resident macrophages in a G1-like phase at frequencies approaching 20%, suggesting how macrophages sustain HIV-1 replication in vivo Finally, we reveal a SAMHD1-dependent antiretroviral activity of histone deacetylase inhibitors acting via p53 activation. These data provide a basis for host-directed therapeutic approaches aimed at limiting HIV-1 burden in macrophages that may contribute to curative interventions.

A global survey of HIV-positive people's attitudes towards cure research

HIV Medicine

February 18, 2017

Involvement of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the design of HIV cure studies is important, given the potential risks to participants. We present results of an international survey of PLHIV to define these issues and inform cure research.

Structured observations reveal slow HIV-1 CTL escape

PLoS Genetics

February 2, 2015

The existence of viral variants that escape from the selection pressures imposed by cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) in HIV-1 infection is well documented, but it is unclear when they arise, with reported measures of the time to escape in individuals ranging from days to years. A study of participants enrolled in the SPARTAC (Short Pulse Anti-Retroviral Therapy at HIV Seroconversion) clinical trial allowed direct observation of the evolution of CTL escape variants in 125 adults with primary HIV-1 infection observed for up to three years.

Immunological biomarkers predict HIV-1 viral rebound after treatment interruption

Nature Communications

October 9, 2015

Treatment of HIV-1 infection with antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the weeks following transmission may induce a state of 'post-treatment control' (PTC) in some patients, in whom viraemia remains undetectable when ART is stopped. Explaining PTC could help our understanding of the processes that maintain viral persistence. Here we show that immunological biomarkers can predict time to viral rebound after stopping ART by analysing data from a randomized study of primary HIV-1 infection incorporating a treatment interruption (TI) after 48 weeks of ART (the SPARTAC trial). T-cell exhaustion markers PD-1, Tim-3 and Lag-3 measured prior to ART strongly predict time to the return of viraemia. These data indicate that T-cell exhaustion markers may identify those latently infected cells with a higher proclivity to viral transcription. Our results may open new avenues for understanding the mechanisms underlying PTC, and eventually HIV-1 eradication.

Advancing the HIV cure agenda: the next 5 years

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases

February 28, 2015

There is a need for new agents that can be safely tested to impact the viral reservoir, a more meaningful understanding of how to assay patient samples, and research into mechanisms behind how the reservoir is established and impacted by therapy. With HIV+ve individuals responding so well to antiretroviral therapy, new trials must be tested hand-in-hand with guidance from patient representatives, especially with respect to determining the acceptable risk. The road to a cure is going to be difficult, but it is vital that inevitable disappointments do not detract from the final goal, which remains worth striving for.

Enhanced normalisation of CD4/CD8 ratio with early antiretroviral therapy in primary HIV infection

Journal of the International AIDS Society

November 2, 2014

Despite normalization of total CD4 counts, ongoing immune dysfunction is noted amongst those on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Low CD4/CD8 ratio is associated with a high risk of AIDS and non-AIDS events and may act as a marker of immune senescence [1]. This ratio is improved by ART although normalization is uncommon (~7%) [2]. The probability of normalization of CD4 count is improved with immediate ART initiation in primary HIV infection (PHI) [3]. We examined whether CD4/CD8 ratio similarly normalized in immediate vs. deferred ART at PHI.

HIV-1 DNA predicts disease progression and post-treatment virological control

eLife Sciences

September 12, 2014

In HIV-1 infection, a population of latently infected cells facilitates viral persistence despite antiretroviral therapy (ART). With the aim of identifying individuals in whom ART might induce a period of viraemic control on stopping therapy, we hypothesised that quantification of the pool of latently infected cells in primary HIV-1 infection (PHI) would predict clinical progression and viral replication following ART. We measured HIV-1 DNA in a highly characterised randomised population of individuals with PHI. We explored associations between HIV-1 DNA and immunological and virological markers of clinical progression, including viral rebound in those interrupting therapy. In multivariable analyses, HIV-1 DNA was more predictive of disease progression than plasma viral load and, at treatment interruption, predicted time to plasma virus rebound. HIV-1 DNA may help identify individuals who could safely interrupt ART in future HIV-1 eradication trials.