From AIDS to Zika: What's Next?
Free Public Lecture
Peter Doherty Institute
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Miegunyah Distinguished Fellowship Public Lecture
Thirty-five years after its discovery, HIV is the world's most intensively studied virus. This research has led to extraordinary breakthroughs including safe combinations of effective drugs and the identification of multiple strategies to protect people from becoming infected. Knowledge gained from studying HIV has had a halo effect on all infectious disease research, as tools developed initially to combat HIV are applied to other pathogens.
Yet the sudden emergence of H1N1 influenza in 2009, West African Ebola in 2014 and Zika virus in 2015 demonstrate that we remain underprepared for the scientific, social, and political consequences of new virus outbreaks - and such outbreaks will happen again in the future.
In this lecture, Professor O'Connor will show how a global scientific research community, which included significant partnerships between wealthy and resource limited countries, improved the public health response to HIV, and how these same partnerships have catalysed research into other new viruses. Strengthening these collaborations is essential to maximise infectious disease preparedness in an interconnected world. Professor O'Connor will discuss his own experience discovering and characterising novel viruses to illustrate how obscure viruses circulating in wild African primates today, share biological features with HIV, and whether we should worry that these viruses may pose a major risk to human health later in the 21st century.