Defining the links between bacterial microbiome, virome, innate and adaptive immune responses, and the roles they play in HIV susceptibility
Understanding the complex interplay between the immune system, healthy and pathogenic bacteria and viruses that routinely colonize the human body (known as microbiomes), is essential for understanding the body’s ability to ward off new infections, like HIV. Identifying the role of the body’s microbiomes in shaping immune responses is a key step towards understanding HIV risk in pediatric populations and for assessing the potential for future infection and transmission prevention.
Through clinical research, Drs. Heather Jaspan and Melanie Gasper study how the infant gut and adolescent genital microbiomes influence the mucosal immunity. Both the gut and vagina have distinct bacterial populations that impact overall vulnerability to new infections. Drs. Jaspan and Gasper are interested in understanding the direct causal link between the bacteriome and virome and the immune system’s capacity to fight HIV infection.
Another area of research interest to Dr. Jaspan is vaccine immunogenicity in infants, who naturally have altered immunity compared to adults. Dr. Jaspan’s work has shown that BCG vaccination may induce HIV target CD4 T-cell activation in infants who are routinely exposed to HIV via breastfeeding. This is important because it increases the likelihood of infection with HIV during exposure. In addition to understanding vaccine immunogenicity, Dr. Jaspan also studies the role of suppressor and regulatory cell populations in healthy and HIV-exposed infants to better understand alternative mechanisms by which infant immunity can be manipulated.
Dr. Gasper is specifically interested in studying the vaginal microbiome in order to understand how it can impact mucosal integrity and immunity, leading to altered susceptibility to HIV infection in adolescents. Dr. Gasper’s work will continue to examine the role of the vaginal microbiota in influencing natural resistance to infections.
The work conducted by Drs. Jaspan and Gasper is firmly rooted in the clinical setting, granting a strong appreciation for patient clinical needs and the logistics of clinical trials. Drs. Jaspan and Gasper are interested in collaborating with industry partners on projects to increase understanding of the links between the numerous biological factors that influence HIV susceptibility, and ultimately contribute to the identification of new intervention targets.
Stage of Development
- Pre-clinical in vitro
- Pre-clinical in vivo
- Clinical trial
- Collaborative research and development opportunity
- Sponsored research agreement
- Consultation agreement
- Clinical trial
- Tissue sample access
- Gasper M, Hesseling AC, Mohar I, .… Jaspan HB. BCG vaccination induces HIV target cell activation in HIV-exposed infants: a randomized, open-label trial. JCI Insight. 2017; 2: e91963.
- Lennard K, Dabee S, Barnabas SL, …. Jaspan HB. Microbial composition predicts genital tract inflammation and persistent bacterial vaginosis in South African adolescents. Infect Immun 2017. In Press (available online)
- Hesseling A, Blakney A, Jones C et al. Delayed BCG immunization does not alter antibody responses to EPI vaccines in HIV-exposed and -unexposed South African infants. Vaccine. 2016;34(32):3702-3709.
- Tchakoute C, Hesseling A, Kidzeru E et al. Delaying BCG vaccination until 8 weeks of age results in robust BCG-specific T-cell responses in HIV-exposed infants. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2014;211(3):338-346.
- Jaspan H, Liebenberg L, Hanekom W et al. Immune activation in the female genital tract during HIV infection predicts mucosal CD4 depletion and HIV shedding. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2011;204(10):1550-1556.
- Heather Jaspan, MD, PhD
- Melanie Gasper, PhD
To learn more about partnering with Seattle Children’s Research Institute on this or other projects, please contact: