Research Supervisor Connect

The role of dendritic cells in co-infection with HIV and herpes simplex virus


The role of dendritic cells in co-infection with HIV and herpes simplex virus.


Professor Tony Cunningham.

Research location

Westmead - Westmead Institute for Medical Research

Program type



Herpes simplex is caused by two different but closely related viruses. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) type 1 persistently infects 60-80% of regional populations and is mostly associated with oral cold sores whilst HSV-2 is more commonly found in individuals suffering genital lesions. The seroprevalence of HSV-2 varies from 7% to 80% depending on geographical location and sexual practices. Prior HSV-2 infection predisposes to subsequent HIV infection, and there are several clinical trials currently underway to assess whether treating HSV can reduce the infection rates of HIV in developing countries. We are interested in dendritic cells and the role they play in HSV and HIV infection. Dendritic cells are antigen presenting cells that are found in the skin, at mucosal surfaces and in the blood. Their role is to survey the environment for pathogens, take up and process antigens and present antigens to T lymphocytes.

Additional information

Techniques: Include tissue culture, flow cytometry and confocal microscopy PhD topics:

  1. Investigation of innate immune cells in herpes lesions We currently have herpes simplex lesion biopsies from different stages of lesion development. One of the projects will start by assessing the types of cells that infiltrate lesions and their pattern of expression of pathogen binding receptors, with an attempt to further delineate the innate immune response to herpes simplex virus. The cells that infiltrate the lesions may be susceptible to HIV infection and this is likely to be one reason for the increased susceptibility of HSV infected individuals to acquire HIV.
  2. The role of Langerhans cells in human herpes simplex virus Recent evidence from our laboratory shows an impairment of dendritic cells when exposed to HSV in vitro. We are interested in continuing this work in Langerhans cells (dendritic cells of the epidermis)
  3. HIV and HSV co-infection studies We have several models working for infection of DC with HIV or HSV and we would like to initiate studies that incorporate infection with both viruses. Key aims of this investigation will be to determine whether co-infection leads to higher virus replication and whether the function of DC is more profoundly affected by co-infection. These studies will involve co-infection at the cellular level (possibly including microarray and proteomic studies) but may also include assessment of the impact of co-infection in a biologically relevant model such as a skin explant system.
Funding: The research in this group is funded by an NHMRC program grant, however, successful PhD applicants will require a scholarship to cover their stipend.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 243

Other opportunities with Professor Tony Cunningham