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NIAID to Fund Research into Microbiome's Role in HIV Immune Response

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will fund studies investigating the role the microbiome plays in human immune responses to HIV-1 transmission, and to vaccines against the disease, NIAID said in a funding announcement today.

The agency will support research project grants (R01) and two-year exploratory and developmental (R21) projects that aim to study the positive and negative interactions between the microbiome and immune responses in the gastrointestinal and genital mucosa. The institute did not set a specific budget limit for the RO1 awards, and will provide up to $275,000 for the R21 grants.

It has long been known that the microbiota of the GI tract play a critical role in the development of lymphoid structures and in the pre-determination of mucosal immune responses, and the decreased efficacy of vaccines for polio, rotavirus, cholera, and typhoid in developing countries also has been linked to the intestinal microbiome, NIAID said. Still, developing vaccines for mucosal pathogens has proven to be "a major challenge," NIAID said.

Having more knowledge about the relationships between the microbiome and immune function could lead to new ways to develop new vaccines and improve their efficacy. These projects are likely to require multidisciplinary research involving metagenomics, host genetics, immunology, microbiology, and virology, NIAID said, and may involve efforts to translate existing knowledge and technologies to help advance HIV-1 vaccines.

The projects may include, but are not limited to translational metagenomics studies to determine the effect of the microbiome on HIV vaccine-induced immune responses; examine the role of the microbiome in shaping host immune responses to HIV vaccine candidates in the GI tract and genital mucosa; explore the use of microbes as HIV vaccine delivery vectors; and characterize the microbiome and inflammatory markers that could be used to develop vaccine-induced immunity.