The HAND Database: a gateway to understanding the role of HIV in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders
Griffin, Tess Z
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Abstract Background Despite an augmented research effort and scale-up of highly active antiretroviral therapy, a high prevalence of HIV-1-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) persists in the HIV-infected population. Nearly 50 % of all HIV-1-infected individuals suffer from a neurocognitive disorder due to neural and synaptodendritic damage. Challenges in HAND research, including limited availability of brain tissue from HIV patients, variation in HAND study protocols, and virus genotyping inconsistency and errors, however, have resulted in studies with insufficient power to delineate molecular mechanisms underlying HAND pathogenesis. There exists, therefore, a great need for a reliable and centralized resource specific to HAND research, particularly for epidemiological study and surveillance in resource-limited countries where severe forms of HAND persist. Description To address the aforementioned imperative need, here we present the HAND Database, a resource containing well-curated and up-to-date HAND virus information and associated clinical and epidemiological data. This database provides information on 5,783 non-redundant HIV-1 sequences from global HAND research published to date, representing a total of 163 unique individuals that have been assessed for HAND. A user-friendly interface allows for flexible searching, filtering, browsing, and downloading of data. The most comprehensive database of its kind, the HAND Database not only bolsters current HAND research by increasing sampling power and reducing study biases caused by protocol variation and genotyping inconsistency, it allows for comparison between HAND studies across different dimensions. Development of the HAND Database has also revealed significant knowledge gaps in HIV-driven neuropathology. These gaps include inadequate sequencing of viral genes beyond env, lack of HAND viral data from HIV epidemiologically important regions including Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries, and biased sampling toward the male gender, all factors that impede efforts toward providing an improved quality of life to HIV-infected individuals, and toward elimination of viruses in the brain. Conclusion Our aim with the HAND database is to provide researchers in both the HIV and neuroscience fields a comprehensive and rigorous data source toward better understanding virus compartmentalization and to help in design of improved strategies against HAND viruses. We also expect this resource, which will be updated on a regular basis, to be useful as a reliable reference for further HAND epidemiology studies. The HAND Database is freely available and accessible online at http://www.handdatabase.org .