CROI Now Covers More Than HIV

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Infection Control TodayInfection Control Today, April 2023, (Vol. 27, No. 3)
Volume 27
Issue 3

The Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections 2023 has research in COVID-19, mpox, hepatitis, and other viral infections, plus networking, and even Anthony Fauci, MD, speaking on his legacy.

The Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections 2023 has research in COVID-19, mpox, hepatitis, and other viral infections, plus networking, and even Anthony Fauci, MD, speaking on his legacy.

The Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections 2023, presented in Seattle, Washington, from February 19, 2023, to February 22, 2023, covers research in COVID-19, mpox, hepatitis, and other viral infections, plus networking.

Infection Control Today® (ICT®) spoke to Joshua Rhein, MD, research in HIV research, assistant professor of infectious disease for the University of Minnesota Medical Center, M Health Fairview Hospital System.

ICT®: The Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, CROI. What topics has the Croix conference covered? And what have you particularly enjoyed?

JR: The CROI conference is the most important HIV conference domestically in the United States. It's well known for covering HIV and related infections and original early-phase research on HIV and associated infections. The primary focus has always been HIV. The “OI" in “CROI” is for opportunistic infections. Some of the infections are related to HIV and AIDS. We've seen an evolution of the bulk of the contents, where early on when CROI was first started, a lot was on opportunistic infections. And as the treatment for HIV has gotten better, the opportunistic infection part has become less than less of a priority. More recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic and even more recent impacts like the pandemic, they've also been added as content areas at CROI. While those aren't directly HIV-related, you have a collection of viral experts and infectious disease experts in a room. Since these were both considered emergencies, [CROI leaders] included original research and these areas as well.

ICT®: You've researched cryptococcal meningitis in Uganda, an infection that comes along with HIV. Please tell us about it.

JR: Cryptococcal meningitis is an infection of the fluid around the brain. An infection with a fungus called cryptococcus neoformans. It primarily affects immunosuppressed individuals. The most common setting for cryptococcal meningitis is advanced HIV infection. With that comes advanced immunosuppression. Uganda is, is that's where we see it very commonly. We don't see HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis as much in the United States anymore, although we do see it and other patient populations that are immunosuppressed for other reasons, such as those receiving cancer treatment or are immunosuppressed for other reasons besides aging.

ICT®: You've been studying Cryptococcus, but now you're changing to HIV studies. Can you explain that and how CROI fits into all of that?

JR: For me, it's been a transition as I moved from being primarily based in Uganda with my research. There, we were already starting to transition back to the United States. Then when COVID hit me, you know, all hands on deck at the time, when it came to COVID and started doing some research projects and COVID-19 here at the University of Minnesota. And my interest was piqued a little; I started working with some researchers here that were more involved in HIV pathogenesis and cure-type research, and I decided to shift my research slightly. For me, CROI presents the perfect opportunity to network and see the leaders and this new subfield in which I'm interested in getting more involved. While at the same time, I have many colleagues and friends still researching cryptococcal meningitis whom I plan to see at the conference and want to try and stay up to date with some of the cutting-edge research happening in that field as well.

ICT®: In thinking about Croix. Are there any presentations, data, or things you're looking forward to when you get there?

JR: There are many different reasons why people go to CROI; as I just spoke of, number one, you want to network and connect with the people in your research field. But it also gives an opportunity to see what type of research is coming out of areas that might be outside your area of research. For me, when it comes to HIV, [CROI] gives a good overview of trends in HIV epidemiology, some other STI-related research, and some of the trials related to other opportunistic infections like TB. I feel I can get a wide range of things from attending, which is why I go every year. It's a mix of staying up to date and Muirfield and learning where some areas are going. And then, of course, there's always, you know, the important talks that happen in the whole field of HIV, and you get to see leaders speaking, leaders, not just an HIV, but all infectious disease and medicine. And so, this year, I'm looking forward to seeing Dr. Fauci speak, in that he's going to be presenting an opening ceremony, and he's going to be giving an overview of CROI for the last 30 years; this is a 30 year of CROI. And I haven't been in the field for 30 years, [so] getting the chance to hear a speaker who has been in the center of the field for the last 30 years and getting his perspectives is something that was going to be rewarding for all of us,

ICT®: Do you have anything else you would like to add?

JR: I am looking forward to this conference. I haven't been to international scientific conferences for the last few years, and something that we all look forward to and the field, so I'm excited to be participating again this year.

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