Employing institution: Institute of Human Virology (Nigeria)

Host institution: University of Cambridge (UK)

Project title: Developing advanced skills in genomics and computational sequencing methods to study HIV drug resistance patterns across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Abdullahi initially trained as a tropical disease scientist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and completed his PhD in Virology and Infectious Diseases, investigating factors that impact the outcomes of HIV treatment across Africa. Dr Abdullahi, is currently based at the Institute of Human Virology in Abuja, his fellowship will expand his technical skills and generate key empirical data to inform the design of larger studies to guide HIV implementation and policy action across the sub-Saharan African region.

AREF Fellowship Research Project:

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of the global HIV disease burden, and whilst effective therapeutic strategies exist in the use of antiretrovirals, drug resistance is a significant hurdle to achieving the UNAIDS goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

The continuous and exponential increase in HIV drug resistance has recently prompted the WHO to recommend the drug dolutegravir (DTG) as a ‘blanket’ drug for HIV. With limited data available on patients taking DTG, this fellowship will help Dr Abdullahi in the long-term to develop a multi-centre project, to characterise patterns of HIV drug resistance in patients failing DTG across sub-Saharan Africa. This knowledge will inform design of point of care tests for resistance mutations to guide patient therapy, enable effective resistance surveillance, and guide policy to ensuring sustained efficacy of antiretroviral treatment programs.

During his fellowship, Dr Abdullahi will be working with a team of multidisciplinary scientists including Professor Ravindra Gupta at the Cambridge institute for Therapeutics Immunology & Infectious Disease. Here, he will learn about genomic and computational methods pertinent to characterisation of viral genomes including viral phenotyping and next-generation sequencing using isolates from HIV patients in Nigeria.

“Through the AREF fellowship, my goal is to characterise the emerging patterns of drug resistance and their molecular determinants in the highly diverse HIV subtypes circulating across sub-Saharan Africa.”