Africa Health Research Institute is celebrating a new PhD graduate for 2019, Dr Laurelle Jackson.

Laurelle’s PhD project involved trying to understand what happens when cells are infected with more than one HIV virion. Her work showed that in the presence of incomplete inhibition by antiretrovirals, as can happen if the virus is drug resistant, drugs reduce the number of virions successfully infecting individual cells but do not close the door on infection completely, resulting in some virions still getting through. Paradoxically, this leads to more infected cells, since infected cells survive better if they are infected with fewer virions.

Laurelle was supervised by AHRI Faculty member, Dr Alex Sigal.

“Laurelle did a very important project and now she’s continuing on to do something even more important – trying to understand why you can have different HIV genotypes co-existing together even though some of them are stronger and others weaker. Even though such coexistence, called a quasi-species, is very common, it is not well understood. I think Laurelle will have the first convincing explanation of how that works,” said Alex.

“I feel proud that I got through it. I really enjoyed the process – most of the time. The major lessons I learnt from this journey were to keep focused and persist no matter what,” added Laurelle.

Laurelle’s goal for now is finishing off her new project as a Postdoctoral Fellow at AHRI.