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Transforming ARV treatment

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Professor Yasien Sayed, research leader of the HIV Proteins Research Thrust, Protein Structure-Function Research Unit in the School of Molecular and Cell Biology, has led his group to international acclaim by solving the three-dimensional X-ray crystal structure of the South African HIV-1 subtype C protease.

To appreciate the importance of this research in the context of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in sub-Saharan Africa, we need to understand the international focus of HIV treatment to date. The vast majority of HIV-infected individuals worldwide are located in sub-Saharan Africa. Thus far, the major target of ARV drugs has been the HIV protease molecule (one of three proteins/enzymes in the virus) through the use of drugs known as protease inhibitors. 'The problem is that all the drugs currently available to treat HIV worldwide have been designed to target the subtype B virus of HIV – the major cause of infection in North America and Europe,' says Sayed.

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