Churchill Laboratory

HIV Neuropathogenesis


Our laboratory focuses on understanding how HIV enters and replicates in the central nervous system, in particular astrocytes, and the impact of infection on the central nervous system.

We are studying the effect of HIV infection on the development of HIV associated neurological disorders, focusing on the factors controlling the development of a latent/persistent infection which lead to the establishment of viral reservoirs.

Our current research aims to determine the mechanism by which HIV enters and infects astrocytes, and the viral and host factors facilitating the development of a latent infection.


  • To understand how HIV establishes infection in astrocytes
  • To determine the effect of infection of astrocytes on the development of neurocognitive disorders
  • To determine the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy on HIV replication in astrocytes
  • To elucidate the determinants of neurovirulence and neurotopism
  • To determine the unique mechanism of regulation allowing establishment of a latent infection in the central nervous system.


  • Unique strains of HIV-1 infect cells of the central nervous system
  • Long lived cells of the central nervous system contain integrated HIV-1 facilitating the development of a viral reservoir
  • Up to 19 percent of astrocytes in the brain of an infected individual can be infected and infection of astrocytes correlates with the development of HIV associated dementia

Contact Details

Associate Professor Melissa Churchill

Head, Churchill Laboratory