Division of Virology at ICMR-NARI is working in diverse frames of HIV-1 research such as HIV characterization, HIV-1 associated viral co-infections and preclinical evaluation of novel pharmaceutical products. The poineering work in the area of HIV characterization and assessment of the neutralizing antibody responses has laid foundation for research on HIV-1, HIV-2 and dual infections, and has identified immune signatures for HIV-1/HIV-2. The ongoing research on HIV-1 associated viral co-infection aims to identify the causal effects of HSV-2 and HTLV-II on HIV-1 replication. The efforts in the area of anti-HIV drug discovery have enormously supported Indian researchers by evaluating newly developed herbal/synthetic products and newer approaches for efficient drug delivery using mesoporous nanoparticles and L-b-L lipid conjugated antiretrovirals are being explored. Furthermore, new avenues of exploring Phycobilliproteins as anti-HIV agents are currently being investigated. Expertise in the area of HIV-1 viral load has led to identification of ICMR-NARI as the Apex laboratory, by the National AIDS Control Organization, with an added responsibility of managing the countrywide HIV-1 viral load proficiency testing. Exhaustive efforts to validate Dried Blood Spot as a sample type for HIV-1 viral load estimation to provide a cost effective alternative to the national programme are successful. The ongoing validation of a handheld tool based on Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) may provide a cost-effective and field deployable diagnostic tool enabling rapid, early stage HIV-1 diagnosis and quantitation.
Apart from HIV virology, the division is also working on the RNA interference, i.e. miRNA or siRNA as potential therapeutics against HIV-associated other opportunistic viral infections like HCV, HBV, HSV and HPV. With an additional responsibility to establish a state-of-art laboratory for isolation and characterization of Indian rickettsial strains at ICMR-NARI, the division is also keen on diversifying its research interests by initiating studies on new and re-emerging infectious diseases.