Knowledge transfer: Scientific visitor learns sequencing technique to monitor HIV drug resistance in Bulgaria
During two weeks in June 2016, Dr Ivailo Alexiev Ivanov, Head of the National Centre of Infectious and Parasitic Disease in Bulgaria which is a WHO National Reference Laboratory for HIV visited LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity to learn new techniques for the monitoring of HIV resistance to antiviral therapy. This visit shall allow to improve the follow-up of infected patients in Bulgaria, and occurred in the framework of the SPREAD HIV drug resistance surveillance programme.
LIH’s communication unit met Dr Ivanov for an interview in which he explains the purpose of his visit and his impressions:
How did the opportunity come up to visit LIH?
I was invited by Dr Carole Devaux, Head of the HIV Clinical and Translational Research Group at LIH. We are both part of the European Society for Translational Antiviral Research and work closely on the SPREAD programme. This surveillance programme, involving 28 countries in Europe, aims to collect representative data to reliably determine the incidence of transmitted drug-resistant HIV within different patient groups and to identify risk factors involved. Bulgaria is part of SPREAD since 2006, almost since its launch.
What did you learn during your visit?
I worked directly with Dr Devaux and two or her team members. I learned specific laboratory techniques for the HIV-1 integrase gene sequencing to monitor HIV resistance to drugs acting as integrase inhibitors. I had the opportunity to mix theory and practice over the past two weeks. Back in Bulgaria, I intend to implement the specific techniques I acquired and provide better therapy monitoring to patients in my country. The collaboration with LIH will definitely help improving disease control and public health in Bulgaria.
Tell us more about your experience within LIH.
This was a great experience within a great team! I felt perfectly integrated into the team. I had the opportunity to work with highly skilled people who warmly shared their expertise with me. The technical equipment at LIH is impressive and I was pleasantly surprised to note that research in Luxembourg benefits from such a good financial support. I also appreciated the strict procedures that are in place to avoid contamination when working with infectious material.
Do you expect new collaborations with LIH in the future?
Yes, this experience certainly opens doors for new collaborative projects and the production of joint scientific publications. My visit strengthens my relationship with the team of Dr Devaux and contributes to a recently started research project in the context of SPREAD on the prevalence of integrase mutations of HIV in patients without antiretroviral treatments. I wish that other Bulgarian scientists and students can get the opportunity to receive similar technical training at LIH and improve their knowledge, in order to further develop HIV healthcare in Bulgaria.
Dr Ivailo Alexiev Ivanov and Dr Carole Devaux in a laboratory of LIH.