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Collaborative Success Stories: Outsmarting AIDS

AIDS virus

A University of Missouri scientist works to stay one step ahead of the deadly disease.

Since 1981, AIDS has claimed the lives of 25 million people. That number dropped dramatically in the developed world in 1995, when researchers created a “cocktail” of drugs to combat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. However, just as some bacteria grow resistant to antibiotics, the constantly mutating virus could eventually evolve into a form that eludes current treatments.

With a $3.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, a team of scientists led by MU researcher Dr. Stefan Sarafianos is working to get ahead of the virus. HIV contains four enzymes, three of which are targeted by current drugs. The fourth, RNase H, is difficult to target. Impressively, Sarafianos and his colleagues mapped out the molecular details of RNase H’s crystal structure which provides scientists a platform to launch promising new drugs.

Recently, Sarafianos has taken his HIV research in a new direction. His international, multidisciplinary team is studying the most common subtypes of HIV, occurring largely in third world countries, which sometimes grow rapidly resistant to current HIV drugs. This drug resistance threatens the global control of HIV. Sarafianos and other MU researchers are working with scientists in Cameroon to combat this drug resistance.

Dr. Stefan Sarafianos is Professor and MU Chancellor’s Chair for Excellence in molecular virology with appointments in the School of Medicine and College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.  He is also a researcher at Bond Life Sciences Center.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine