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Getting to the heart of cardiovascular disease in viral infections

Viral infections including HIV and SARS-CoV-2 are known to increase the risk of certain chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease (CVD). People with HIV have twice the risk of developing CVD than the general population despite effective anti-viral therapy, and CVD is now one of the greatest causes of disease and death in this population.

How viral infections such as HIV increase the risk of CVD is not fully understood but may be related to systemic inflammation and immune activation that persist despite effective viral control/clearance, effects of anti-viral medications, or long-lasting impacts of viral replication on cells such as monocytes, which are involved in the early stages of cardiovascular disease.

This project aims to understand the mechanisms of how viral infections can potentiate the development of CVD, with a particular focus on the role monocytes may play in this process.

2022 - Ongoing

We are utilising clinical cohort samples, transcriptomic and proteomic approaches together with novel in vitro assays of atherosclerotic processes to investigate:  

  • What atherosclerotic pathways and processes are modified by viruses?
  • Can we identify biomarkers that predict a cardiovascular event in people with viral infections like HIV?
  • How do viral infections alter the atherosclerosis-promoting functions of monocytes?
  • What treatments are effective at preventing CVD in people with a history of viral infection?
  • Do viruses and healthy ageing act through similar or different pathways to increase CVD risk?

This work will help determine how viral infections may potentiate CVD, which will identify processes that can be targeted therapeutically. Identifying biomarkers to predict those at risk of a cardiovascular event will help prevent CVD in the millions of people worldwide who live with a chronic viral infection.

Annahearps 002 WEB

Doctor Anna Hearps

Contact Doctor Anna Hearps for more information about this project. 


Partners +

  • Infectious Diseases Unit, Alfred Hospital and Monash University
  • Austin Health