Wondering Why Old Joe Was Red? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Wondering Why Old Joe Was Red?

On Thursday 1st December, Old Joe lit up red to acknowledge World AIDS day. Rachel Kahn reports

 Globally, 36.7 million people are living with HIV and 18.2 million people receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) every year, clearly highlighting the scale of the problem. ART, although effective cannot eliminate the viral infection completely, instead essentially keeping it dormant so the virus is less problematic to us.

World AIDS Day also gave us the opportunity to find out a bit more about the HIV research going on at UoB and how its changing the field as we might know it...

Human Immunodeficiency virus, HIV, is a virus that infects the cells of our immune system. One of the main reasons the virus is so problematic is due to the fact it can incorporate into the genome of the cell it infects. This means, every time the cell divides, which happens a number of times a day, a copy of the virus genome goes with it, resulting in an exponential number of cells being infected. Our immune system is vital for defence against invading pathogens such as bacteria and as HIV takes hold, it means someone suffering with HIV becomes increasingly susceptible to opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis whilst also being at increased risk of some cancers.

As this process continues, immune function decreases which gives rise to the condition we know as ‘AIDS’.

World AIDS Day also gave us the opportunity to find out a bit more about the HIV research going on at the University of Birmingham and how its changing the field as we might know it. Dr Isabel Nawroth is a researcher at the Centre of Human Virology and the University of Birmingham working on HIV. Around the body, a number of different oxygen environments exist which has different effects on our cells. Some cells face a low oxygen environment known as ‘hypoxia’, and Dr Nawroth is investigating what effect this has on viral replication.

Dr Nawroth has found that an oxygen deprived environment affects how the virus can be reactivated...

As mentioned, conventional ART therapy doesn’t get rid of the virus completely but keeps it at such low levels it’s less problematic. However, new therapies are now exploring the idea of ‘shock and kill’, which aims to spike the levels of the virus in the body, bringing out any virus that may be ‘dormant’. This would then be followed by other anti-viral therapies to eradicate the virus completely.

Dr Nawroth has found that an oxygen deprived environment affects how the virus can be reactivated out of its dormant state, which could provide a novel target for ‘shock’ therapies in the future.

Not only was Old Joe highlight a huge public health problem, but also celebrating some of the amazing research going on here in Birmingham.

(@rachellk96)



Published

7th December 2016 at 10:00 am

Last Updated

7th December 2016 at 3:04 am



Images from

Daniel Sancho



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