Dr. Jennifer Downs received an HIV Research Scholars award from Gilead Sciences for her project, "Mechanisms of Mucosal HIV Susceptibility in Schistosoma mansoni Infection."
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic worm infection that affects more than 200 million people worldwide, over 90% of whom live in Africa. Dr. Downs's prior work in Tanzania showed that women with S. mansoni infection had a 2.5-fold increased risk of incident HIV infection compared to women who did not have schistosomiasis. This effect was not observed in men. In the new research study supported by Gilead Sciences, Dr. Downs will determine the mechanisms by which S. mansoni infection causes changes in the genital mucosa that may lead to increased HIV susceptibility. She will also investigate the effect of treatment with the anti-schistosome medication praziquantel in reversing these mucosal changes.