Dr Nilu Goonetilleke is a senior immunologist responsible for coordinating the NIH Center for HIV-AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) studies within the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. Her research focuses on the immunology of infectious diseases and vaccine design, with a particular focus on T cell immunology. Dr Goonetilleke and the CHAVI team are studying the T cell immune response to HIV in 60 patients with acute HIV infection. They are examining the evolution of the T cell immune response in the context of other immune responses and changes in the virus, and also looking for resistance factors in people who have been exposed to HIV, but not infected.
Dr Nilu Goonetilleke talks about her research within the CHAVI project (NIH Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology).
In the course of HIV infection, the fate is set early, since the early immune response is an important factor in determining the clinical course of the disease. Most patients are infected with a single transmitted founder virus. The first stages of the infection are of crucial importance: the first effective immune responses drive the selection of virus escape mutations. Strong innate and adaptive immune responses occur subsequently but they are too late to eliminate the infection.