Rupert Kaul

OHTNAfrican, Caribbean and Black Communities, Care, Co-infections, OHTN, Other Comorbidities, people, People Living with HIV, Prevention

Rupert Kaul

OHTN-University of Toronto Endowed Chair in HIV Research

Rupert Kaul studies the mucosal tissues that line the vagina, the penis, the gut and the rectum: tissues that are part of the body’s natural defenses against HIV. Better control of HIV in these areas has the potential to improve the health of people living with HIV and reduce transmission.

Research Findings

  • Antiretroviral treatment can rapidly reduce the amount of HIV in a person’s blood and semen. However in some men, HIV levels remain high in semen for months after blood viral load becomes undetectable. Eventually treatment also reduces semen viral load even in these men.
  • CD4+ cells in the gut of a person with HIV are damaged early in the process of infection, and recover much more slowly that CD4+ cells in the blood. This allows bacteria to leak into the body, increasing inflammation and driving many HIV co-morbidities, such as heart disease.
  • Inflammation in the genital tract or rectum increases the risk of HIV transmission, both for HIV-infected and uninfected people

Current Projects

  • Probiotics to Enhance Gut Health – A clinical trial to determine whether a probiotic can reduce inflammation in people living with HIV (PHAs) who are either just starting antiretroviral therapy, or have had suppressed virus for a long time but still have low CD4+ cell counts
  • The University of Toronto HIV Clinical Prevention Unit – conducts research to optimize the use of clinical prevention tools like PreP and PEP.
    Co-infections Studies – Work to document the rates of sexually transmitted infections in Ontario and how these infections influence the impact of HIV; this includes sharing the results of a recent study completed in African, Caribbean and Black communities

Work Environment and Collaborations:

Rupert Kaul is based at the University Health Network in Toronto (where he treats HIV patients at the UHN Immunodeficiency Clinic) and the University of Toronto (where he conducts research). He is Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Toronto and the University Health Network.

Rupert collaborates with other scientists in Ontario, Kenya and Uganda. He works closely with Mario Ostrowski (OHTN Applied Research Chair) and Colin Kovacs (OHTN Policy & Practice Leader) to translate basic research findings into improved clinical care and with Dr. Darrell Tan, to translate research findings into improved prevention. Rupert has also worked extensively with the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario, providing information to help Ontario’s ACB communities set research priorities.

OHTN Support:

In addition to ongoing support from an OHTN endowed chair at the University of Toronto, Rupert Kaul also has operating funds to support the Synbiotics to Enhance Gut Health study (334,688.00 for 3 years, 2013-2016) and the HIV Clinical Prevention Unit ($144,000 for 2 years, 2014-16). First funded as a principal investigator by OHTN in 2002.

Video Lectures and Interviews

OHTN Researcher Profile: Rupert Kaul (May 7, 2014)