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Florida Researchers Receive NIAID Grant to Track HIV Transmission Clusters in Real Time

The use of molecular epidemiology methods for identifying and tracking epidemic transmission clusters has recently gained traction, but these methods are not equipped to identify transmission clusters and their corresponding dynamics in real time. Now, University of Florida researchers, with support from a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant, will apply a new tool to model Florida’s dynamic HIV transmission clusters over time.

The project is led by Dr. Mattia Prosperi, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology in the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine, and Dr. Marco Salemi, a professor in the department of pathology in the College of Medicine. Both are also members of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute.

“Our new tool for dynamic identification of transmission epicenters, known as HIV-DYNAMITE, will aid in monitoring, in real time, hyper-connected and/or long-lasting clusters fueling emerging HIV regional epidemics,” Dr. Prosperi said.

Florida leads the nation in new HIV cases and rates of infection are on the rise among men who have sex with men, minority and tourist/immigrant populations. The researchers will partner with the Florida Department of Health to identify and predict infection trends as well as virus spread within Florida and among neighboring states by applying HIV-DYNAMITE to the Florida Department of Health’s extensive viral sequence dataset collected over the past 10 years. The data will be coupled with geo-demographic information.

The researchers plan to work closely with the Florida Department of Health to develop strategies to use the tool in practice and translate results into precision public health.

“The proposed approach has the potential to be incorporated into other settings within the U.S. with comparable statewide surveillance and virus sequencing coverage through national reference centers,” Dr. Prosperi said.