The World Health Organization (WHO) has set targets to eliminate HIV/AIDS as a pandemic by 2020 and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) by 2030. In the developed world, where epidemics are well managed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify remaining pockets of ongoing HIV and HCV transmission, making it difficult to reach and go beyond these targets. To facilitate reaching these targets we need new bioinformatics tools that can identify communities at high risk of continuing HIV and HCV infection and be used to support the delivery of public health interventions and healthcare services.
Phylogenetic monitoring – harnessing large, rapidly growing sequence databases – offers a solution for identifying clusters of HIV or HCV diagnoses in near real-time. Developing and implementing such a system also requires new bioinformatic tools to facilitate sharing the results of analyses with public health officials while maintaining patient confidentiality and privacy. Such tools would also need to be able to take advantage of next-generation sequencing data.
Drs. Jeffrey B. Joy and Julio S.G. Montaner at the University of British Columbia are developing and implementing such a system. It will serve as a national, near-real-time phylogenetic monitoring platform capable of incorporating based on next-generation sequencing data, coupled with bioinformatic tools to securely present and distribute results to public health agencies. They are developing new methods of monitoring epidemics and infections. These tools will be freely available to the research community and allow more effective targeting of public health interventions, moving us more rapidly toward reaching WHO targets to control and eliminate HIV and HCV.