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Ana B. Abecasis is an Assistant Researcher in the Department for International Public Health and Biostatistics, at the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (IHMT/UNL), since 2014.
She has an MD from the New University of Lisbon (2014); a PhD in Medical Sciences from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (2009) and a PharmD from the University of Lisbon (2002). She also has a diploma in Medical Microbiogy from the IHMT/UNL.
She teaches several Bioinformatics and Evolution lectures at the IHMT/UNL. Since 2004, she is an invited teacher at the International Bioinformatics Workshop on Virus Evolution and Molecular Epidemiology . She has supervised several master students in Bioinformatics from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium).
Her main areas of interest are evolution, molecular epidemiology, transmission of infectious diseases, development of HIV resistance to antiretrovirals. and transmission of antiretroviral drug resistance. Most of her work has been done on HIV viruses, but she also has some work done on other fast-evolving viruses, as well as on tuberculosis and sporulation.
In 2012, she was awarded the L’óreal Portugal Medal of Honor for Women in Science for a project focused on better understanding transmission of drug resistance (TDR) between HIV-1 infected patients.
She has participated in several European projects focused on Antiretroviral Drug Resistance and is now the Portuguese Principal Investigator for the HIV-ERA funded BEST-HOPE project (Bio-Molecular and Epidemiological Surveillance of HIV Transmitted Drug Resistance, Hepatitis Co-Infections and Ongoing Transmission Patterns in Europe).
AB Abecasis is author/co-author of 40 peer-reviewed publications and several presentations in international meetings. She has a cumulative impact factor of 174.92 and an h-index of 11.
It is well known that HIV-1 presents a unique degree of genetic diversity. HIV-1 strains are classified in 3 groups, 9 different pure subtypes, 51 Circulating Recombinant Forms (CRFs) and several Unique Recombinant Forms (URFs)
While on one hand high rates of mutation and recombination of HIV-1 pose serious problems in the study of HIV-1 evolutionary history and on the development of an efficient vaccine, on the other hand allow studying high rates of evolution of HIV-1 strains in the short term as in no other organism. HIV-1 can therefore be used as an evolutionary model to develop methods that can later be adapted to other organisms.
Furthermore, the enormous amount of sequences available in public databases, offer the possibility to study this genetic diversity in detail.
We have several parallel projects that study the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in large (ex: comparison between different subtypes) and short scale (ex: transmission chains within the same subtype in the same city).
In a large scale, we are investigating the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in Europe in general and specifically in Estonia, Slovenia and in Portugal. We have also been involved in collaborations that investigated the molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 in African countries such as Sao Tome e Principe, Mozambique and Angola. Furthermore, we are interested in the impact of HIV-1 genetic diversity on the evolution of the virus, as for example in response to immune selective pressure or in development of resistance to antiretrovirals.
In a shorter scale, we are interested in the development of methods for detection of superinfection, transmission chains and detection of transmission of drug resistance to antiretrovirals.
Transmitted drug resistance (TDR) is substantial and results in the recommendation to test for TDR in all drug naïve patients. In Europe, newly diagnosed patients with TDR represent about 10% of all cases. While resistance to protease inhibitors (PIs) and Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs) is predicted to stabilize, resistance to Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs) can increase by more than 30%. Given that NNRTIs are included in first line regimens in most cases, this is a worrying finding. In our studies, we are using databases of genomic sequences to develop methods, based on phylodynamic approaches. to detect and analyse cases of TDR.
- Abecasis AB, Geretti AM, Albert J, Power L, Weait M, Vandamme AM. Science in court: the myth of HIV fingerprinting. Lancet Infect Dis. 2011 Feb; 11(2):78-9.
- Abecasis AB, Lemey P, Vidal N, de Oliveira T, Peeters M, Camacho R, Shapiro B, Rambaut A, Vandamme A-M. Recombination is confounding the early evolutionary history of HIV-1: subtype G is a circulating recombinant form. Journal of Virology 2007. J Virol. 2007 Aug;81(16):8543-51. Epub 2007 Jun 6.
- Abecasis AB, Deforche K, Bacheler LT, McKenna P, Carvalho AP, Gomes P, Vandamme A-M, Camacho R. Investigation of baseline susceptibility to PIs in HIV-1 subtypes C, F, G and CRF02_AG. Antiviral Therapy 2006. 11(5):581-9.
- Abecasis A, Paraskevis D, Epalanga M, Fonseca M, Burity F, Bartolomeu J, Carvalho A P, Gomes P, Vandamme A-M, Camacho R. HIV-1 genetic variants circulation in the North of Angola. Infect Genet Evol. 2005
- Bártolo I, Abecasis AB, Borrego P, Barroso H, McCutchan F, Gomes P, Camacho R and Taveira N. Origin and Epidemiological History of HIV-1 CRF14_BG. Plos One. In Press.