The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is the principal agency of the U.S. Public Health Service responsible for conducting basic and clinical research on acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). NIAID's efforts cover five broad scientific areas: (1) HIV pathogenesis research, (2) epidemiology and natural history, (3) vaccine research and development, (4) treatment research and development, and (5) HIV disease in children.
NIAID sponsors investigations through research project grants, contracts and cooperative agreements. Several major contracts provide critical resources to NIAID and to researchers nationally. These contracts include the AIDS Research and Reference Reagent Program, which makes substances available to laboratory scientists, and the AIDS Clinical Trials Information Service, whose staff provides telephone callers with information about specific clinical trials of AIDS therapies.
Investigators in NIAID's intramural laboratories conduct basic research in such areas as molecular biology, virology, microbiology and immunology. In addition, NIAID scientists carry out clinical research investigating promising new therapies and testing potential vaccines.
HIV Pathogenesis Research
Pathogenesis research and basic research in a range of fields has laid the foundation for the many rapid advances that have contributed to our knowledge of HIV and AIDS. Multidisciplinary studies increase our understanding of the biology of HIV, including the life cycle of the virus and its effects on the host. Knowledge gained from these studies enhances the ability of researchers to create new drugs and vaccines to combat HIV infection.
NIAID scientists have undertaken landmark studies in this area, resulting in findings such as the discovery of lymphoid tissue as a major reservoir for HIV, and the demonstration that so-called clinical latency is, in fact, a period of active viral replication.
The Centers for AIDS Research, which NIAID established at U.S. research institutions and universities, provide critical resources and enhance collaboration in AIDS-related basic research.
Epidemiology and Natural History NIAID-sponsored epidemiologic studies characterize and provide data on the clinical history of HIV infection and related diseases and develop the knowledge base for vaccine and treatment interventions. Several large, multicenter epidemiologic research projects are under way. These studies document the changing natural history and spectrum of complications of HIV disease in different populations.
Vaccine Research and Development
Development of a safe and effective vaccine for AIDS is a public health priority. NIAID-supported basic research studies add knowledge about the mechanisms of immunity to HIV and provide information on the most promising candidate vaccines. The National Cooperative Vaccine Development Groups are developing and testing novel experimental HIV vaccine concepts. NIAID-supported animal studies examine the effects of potential vaccines in several retroviral models. Other studies focus on identifying vaccine adjuvants, compounds that enhance the immune responses to the vaccine.
In the United States, several candidate vaccines currently are being evaluated in people for safety and the ability to stimulate the immune system. The NIAID Division of Intramural Research and six NIAID-supported AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Units, located at universities throughout the United States, are conducting clinical vaccine trials. NIAID is also laying the foundation for prevention research and the conduct of efficacy trials when suitable vaccine products become available.
Treatment Research and Development
NIAID's goal is to foster the discovery and development of interventions that will improve the quality and duration of life of HIV-infected individuals. Basic research is the foundation of this effort, underpinning programs of targeted drug discovery to combat HIV and opportunistic infections.
NIAID has four diverse networks that conduct clinical trials to evaluate promising therapies for HIV infection and associated opportunistic infections and cancers. The AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), the Terry Beirn Community Programs for Clinical Research on AIDS (CPCRA), the Division of AIDS Treatment Research Initiative (DATRI) and intramural facilities in the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda.
Pediatric HIV Disease
NIAID's pediatric AIDS research program focuses on identifying and supporting the development of improved ways to prevent and treat HIV infection in infants, children and adolescents. Besides conducting treatment research, NIAID-supported investigators are looking for ways to prevent perinatal transmission and to identify early HIV-infected infants.
NIAID, a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports research on AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases as well as allergies and immunology. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Prepared by: