HIV R4P Shadowed by Ebola

As the inaugural HIV R4P conference gets underway in Cape Town, South Africa, the first virus everyone is talking about isn’t HIV. Discussions in the hallways and over coffee start off with another virus: Ebola.


The two viruses obviously have their differences. “Things happen so quick with Ebola, in a way that it is not with HIV. HIV is so crafty,” says Robin Shattock, professor of mucosal infection and immunity at Imperial College London and a co-chair of the conference. With Ebola, “people die very fast. It is not a chronic disease. It either kills you or it goes away,” he says. If it goes away, scientists can analyze a cured patient. This, along with the well-developed animal models for studying Ebola compared with that for the challenging and highly mutable HIV, strongly affect the paths available to researchers examining and trying to solve the two viruses.

While Shattock was fielding many questions about what can be learned from the clinical response to both HIV and Ebola, it didn’t come as a complete shock to learn that Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was due to speak today about some of the main goals of HIV R4P, isn’t going to make it to Cape Town in person and will dial in by phone to press conferences. Fauci is a key spokesperson on the response to Ebola in the US.

Given the epidemic is actually taking place in Africa, it is on people’s minds here as well. – Michael Dumiak