Cristian Apetrei, MD, PhD, has been awarded funding in the amount of $1,395,515 for a two-year COVID-19 Supplement by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH/NIDDK) entitled “Impact of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine on gut integrity, immune activation and efficacy of ART”. This proposal was submitted in response to the funding opportunity entitled Urgent Competitive Revision to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements under funding opportunity number PA-18-935.

COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people of advanced age or those with comorbidities, and worldwide data unequivocally show that the majority of the critical cases or deaths occurred in either older patients or subjects with pre-existing conditions. Considering that the majority of people living with HIV (PLWH) in the U.S. are aged >50 years and that even the younger PLWH present with accelerated aging and multiple comorbidities related to HIV-associated excessive chronic inflammation, it is expected that COVID-19 will be particularly severe in PLWH. Understanding both the impact of a potential SARS-CoV-2 vaccine on the pathogenesis of HIV infection, particularly at the mucosal sites (which are targeted by both SARS-CoV-2 and HIV), and the impact of prior HIV infection on the immunogenicity of a potential SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is a critical step prior to initiating the vaccination of the PLWH, and is the overarching goal of this administrative supplement.

This proposal is designed to assess the impact of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination on the mucosal immune activation and inflammation, mucosal integrity, microbial translocation and microbiome. All of these are features that may impact the outcome of HIV infection and the efficacy of antiretroviral treatments. These aspects have to be known in order to properly assess the clinical indications of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and the potential side effects specific to the patients with preexisting alterations of the mucosal integrity (including, but not limited to, HIV-infected individuals).

Please join us in congratulating Cristian!