People who inject drugs helped investigate factors influencing susceptibility to HIV infection | University of Tartu

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Contacts of UT units

Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Faculty phone: 
+372 737 5341
Faculty address: 
Jakobi 2, rooms 116–121, 51005 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    + 372 737 5341
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, rooms 116–121, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of History and Archaeology
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5651
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5221
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5314
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 2, rooms 309–352, 51005 Tartu
  • Institute of Cultural Research
    Faculty phone: 
    (+372) 737 5223
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 16, 51003 Tartu
  • School of Theology and Religious Studies
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5301
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18–310, 50090 Tartu
  • College of Foreign Languages and Cultures
    Faculty address: 
    J. Liivi 4, 50409, Tartu
  • Viljandi Culture Academy
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 435 5232
    Faculty address: 
    Posti 1, 71004 Viljandi
Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty phone: 
+372 737 5957
Faculty address: 
Lossi 36, 51003 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    + 372 737 5900
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 36, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Education
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6440
    Faculty address: 
    Salme 1a–29, 50103 Tartu
  • Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5582
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 36–301, 51003 Tartu
  • School of Economics and Business Administration
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6310
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 18, 51009 Tartu
  • Institute of Psychology
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    Näituse 2, 50409 Tartu
  • School of Law
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  • Institute of Social Studies
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Faculty of Medicine
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Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
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    Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine
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    Biomeedikum, Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Pharmacy
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  • Institute of Dentistry
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  • Institute of Clinical Medicine
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    L. Puusepa 8, 50406 Tartu
  • Institute of Family Medicine and Public Health
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    +372 737 4190
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 19, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Sport Sciences and Physiotherapy
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5360
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 5–205, 51005 Tartu
Faculty of Science and Technology
Faculty phone: 
+372 737 5820
Faculty address: 
Vanemuise 46–208, 51014 Tartu
  • Dean's Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5820
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46–208, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Computer Science
    Faculty phone: 
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    Narva mnt 18, 51009 Tartu
  • Estonian Marine Institute
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 671 8902
    Faculty address: 
    Mäealuse 14, 12618 Tallinn
  • Institute of Physics
    Faculty address: 
    W. Ostwaldi 1, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Chemistry
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5261
    Faculty address: 
    Ravila 14a, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Mathematics and Statistics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5860
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 18, 51009 Tartu
  • Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5027
    Faculty address: 
    Riia 23, 23b–134, 51010 Tartu
  • Tartu Observatory
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    +372 737 4510
    Faculty address: 
    Observatooriumi 1, Tõravere, 61602 Tartumaa
  • Institute of Technology
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    Faculty address: 
    Nooruse 1, 50411 Tartu
  • Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5835
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46, 51003 Tartu
Institutions
  • Library
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5702
    Faculty address: 
    W. Struve 1, 50091 Tartu
  • Youth Academy
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5581
    Faculty address: 
    Uppsala 10, 51003 Tartu
  • Institute of Genomics
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 4000
    Faculty address: 
    Riia 23b, 51010 Tartu
  • Museum
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5674
    Faculty address: 
    Lossi 25, 51003 Tartu
  • University of Tartu Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 6076
    Faculty address: 
    Vanemuise 46, 51003 Tartu
Support Units
  • Administrative Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5606
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
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    +372 737 4809
    Faculty address: 
    Narva mnt 18, 51009, Tartu
  • University Office in Tallinn
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    +372 737 6600
    Faculty address: 
    Teatri väljak 3, 10143 Tallinn
  • Estates Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5137
    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Finance Office
    Faculty phone: 
    +372 737 5125
    Faculty address: 
    Jakobi 4, 51005 Tartu
  • Grant Office
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    +372 737 6215
    Faculty address: 
    Raekoja plats 9, 51004 Tartu
  • Information Technology Office
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    Faculty address: 
    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Human Resources Office
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    Ülikooli 18, rooms 302 and 304, 50090 Tartu
  • Internal Audit Office
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  • Marketing and Communication Office
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    Ülikooli 18, rooms 102, 104, 209, 210, 50090 Tartu
  • Office of Academic Affairs
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    Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu
  • Procurement Office
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    Ülikooli 18a, 51005 Tartu
  • Rector's Strategy Office
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  • Student Council
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  • University of Tartu Press
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Other Units
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    Faculty address: 
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  • Tartu Student Village
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    Faculty address: 
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  • Tartu Students’ Club
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  • Tartu University Hospital
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  • University of Tartu Foundation
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  • View all other units

People who inject drugs helped investigate factors influencing susceptibility to HIV infection

In recent years, the HIV infection rate in Estonia has continued to be around 200 new cases each year, which is still one of the highest incidence rates per 100,000 inhabitants in Europe. As parenteral transmission of HIV is the most effective, people who inject drugs (PWID) are considered to be one of the most vulnerable groups to HIV infection. Doctoral student, Ene-Ly Jõgeda, from the University of Tartu, included 345 PWID in her doctoral thesis to study the factors influencing the acquisition of HIV infection. Understanding these will potentially contribute to the development of prophylactic drugs or vaccines, which would help reduce the transmission and further spread of the virus.

According to the junior research fellow of biomedicine and translational medicine at the University of Tartu, Ene-Ly Jõgeda, the epidemic that broke out in Estonia in 2000 started among PWID. Even though, in recent years, most of the newly diagnosed patients have contracted the infection through sexual contact, the majority of people living with HIV are PWID. “Studies conducted among PWID have revealed a number of individuals who, despite being highly exposed, remain seronegative. Unfortunately, the exact mechanisms which make them less susceptible to HIV, are not known,” said Jõgeda.

Identifying the factors or characteristics that decrease the risk of infection, will help us understand why some people do not contract HIV. So far, studies have discovered several changes in the human genome (genetic polymorphisms) and immunological markers which are associated with a lower risk of infection.

The transmission of HIV is also influenced by coinfections, such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses, herpesviruses and malaria. Coinfections increase the overall burden on the host’s immune system and thus may alter their susceptibility to HIV infection.

Jõgeda described that some viruses, like the human T-lymphotropic virus and the human pegivirus, have beneficial effects on HIV-infected individuals. “Most studies in this field have focused on studying the influence of coinfections on the progression of HIV infection. So far, the human pegivirus and the human T-lymphotropic virus have been associated with lower levels of immune activation, a smaller amount of HIV particles in blood and delayed progression to AIDS.”

In her doctoral thesis, Jõgeda studied the prevalence of HIV coinfections and host genetics, and assessed their influence on the acquisition of HIV infection. For this, she conducted the first human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) study in Estonia.

“The results showed a very low prevalence of HTLV among a high risk population such as PWID. This suggests that, in the near future, the routine screening of blood donors for this virus would not be cost-effective,” said Jõgeda. Her research confirmed that human pegivirus is most often found in PWID, which indicates a possible association of the human pegivirus with the use of injectable drugs and an HIV infection.

As a third central result, Jõgeda brought out that the studied genetic polymorphism influences HIV infection, but continued risk behaviour reduces the scale of this influence: “This shows that risk behaviour is an important factor that has a great effect on HIV infection.”

Determining the studied polymorphism, which is located in an interferon gene (IFNL4), has previously been applied in clinical practice. This polymorphism is strongly associated with the interferon-based hepatitis C treatment, but the efficiency of new direct-acting antiviral medications used in the treatment of hepatitis C virus does not depend on this polymorphism.

“Current information that this mutation also plays a role in HIV transmission is important for further studies. It helps to determine the mechanisms influencing the acquisition of HIV infection and thus potentially contribute to the development of prophylactic medications,” Jõgeda pointed out.

Ene-Ly Jõgeda defended her doctoral thesis, “The influence of coinfections and host genetic factor on the susceptibility to HIV infection among people who inject drugs” on 11 June 2019.

Thesis supervisors are Irja Lutsar, a professor of medical microbiology at University of Tartu Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine, and Kristi Huik, a research fellow of medical virology and microbiology.

The translation of the original article was funded by the European Regional Development Fund through Estonian Research Council.

More information:
Ene-Ly Jõgeda
Junior Research Fellow of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine at the University of Tartu, Doctoral Student
ene-ly.jogeda [ät] ut.ee
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