Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital, the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Centre of Excellence, and the Baylor-Uganda Children’s Centre of Excellence are teaming up to establish highly knowledgeable geneticists in Africa. Funded by a $3 million, three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, researchers will collaborate to study the genetic factors that affect the progression of tuberculosis and HIV in sub-Saharan African children. “Most of the previous genetic studies in HIV were undertaken in non-African, adult populations,” stated Dr. Gabriel Anabwani from the Botswana site, who is the lead investigator on the grant.
It is of great interest to study the genes of HIV-infected children because a rare group within that population is able to control infection for years without the need for anti-retroviral therapy to prevent AIDS onset. By studying the genes of these children, it may be possible to identify a link between genetic signature and disease progression, ultimately leading to improved diagnostics and therapeutic avenues. Dr. Anabwani elaborated: “There is a great need to study the genetic factors of progression in children; their disease differs considerably from their adult counterparts and they potentially have more to gain from therapeutic advances.”
The researchers at Baylor will combine their genomics expertise and technical resources with patients recruited at African clinical centers to establish The Collaborative African Genomics Network (CAfGEN). “Advanced genetic and genomic technologies have the promise to transform our understanding and approach to health and human diseases,” said Dr. Graeme Mardon, principal investigator at Baylor. This understanding will continue to develop as the program is transitioned to the African researchers and core genomics facilities in Botswana and Uganda are developed. Stated Dr. Oathokwa Nkomazana from the University of Botswana, “The excitement of this grant is not only the potential for improved care in childhood HIV, but the improvements in knowledge and infrastructure that will serve the people of Africa for many years to come.”
Other institutions involved in the effort include Makerere University in Uganda; the University of Botswana; and Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center, the Laboratory for Translational Genomics in the Children’s Nutrition Research Center, and the Center for Statistical Genetics.