Researchers from Temple University have used the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool to clear out the entire HIV-1 genome from a patient’s infected immune cells. It’s a remarkable achievement that could have profound implications for the treatment of AIDS and other retroviruses.
It’s a little early to break out the champagne, but while medication for HIV has done wonders – HIV is notoriously good at hiding in the body. That’s where news like this brings hope that HIV positive people could one day be truly cured.
That HIV/AIDS is almost entirely preventable is a fact. That a little personal responsibility is all that’s needed to prevent it is not.
Children get it from their parents. People get it from bad medical practices. People who make the ‘right choices’ all of their lives get it from spouses who had it and didn’t know it, or from partners who picked it up while cheating. People get it because they live in a place with virtually no Sex Ed beyond “sex is bad, don’t do it unless you’re married to a person of the other sex,” and then make bad choices due to misinformation. And yes, some people who should know better make shitty life choices.
But even in the last case, it’s not something that should cause us to turn our backs on a person.
For the approximately 37 million people worldwide who are infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the newest cocktails of anti-retroviral drugs have come a long way in beating back the retrovirus and keeping an infection in check. Still, those drugs are no cure. While the treatments snarl the viral assembly line and thwart new infectious particles from invading the body’s cells, HIV itself is still there, hunkered in the DNA of a patient’s genome until there’s an opportunity for a comeback—say, when a patient goes off their medication.
Case Western Reserve researchers are part of an international team that has discovered that a common herpes drug reduces HIV-1 levels — even when patients do not have herpes.
Published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the finding rebuts earlier scientific assumptions that Valacyclovir (brand name, Valtrex) required the presence of the other infection to benefit patients with HIV-1.
The result not only means that Valacyclovir can be used effectively with a broader range of HIV-1 patients, but also suggests promising new avenues for the development of HIV-fighting drugs. This insight is particularly significant given that some forms of HIV-1 have become resistant to existing medications.
…HIV-1 can lead to the immune deficiency known as AIDS. The herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) causes periodic recurrence of genital herpes lesions, which increase the likelihood that a herpes sufferer may contract HIV through intimate contact. HSV-2 outbreaks are treated with either Acyclovir or the newer generation Valacyclovir, which requires less frequent dosing.
Wouldn’t be the first time a drug showed this type of cross-reactivity. Lamivudine started as an anti-HIV drug and ended up being effective as an anti-HBV drug as well. HIV is a retrovirus and HBV is a pararetrovirus – both of which have reverse transcriptase but HBV exists as a DNA virus outside the host cell while HIV exists as a RNA virus outside the host cell. This is important because RNA is more prone to mutations (thus the viral proteins made from the viral RNA avoid the antibodies custom made by the immune system from vaccines) while DNA is more stable in structure (the antibodies are able to target the common motif of the viral proteins made from the viral DNA and kill them before they have a chance to infect the organism). This explains why we have a HBV vaccine, but not an HIV vaccine.
Recent research also suggests that the chickenpox vaccine may help with herpes. Which shouldn’t be much of a surprise – chickenpox is a form of herpes.
A team of researchers, led by Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has developed a low-cost smartphone accessory that can perform a point-of-care test that simultaneously detects three infectious disease markers from a finger prick of blood in just 15 minutes. The device replicates, for the first time, all mechanical, optical, and electronic functions of a lab-based blood test. Specifically, it performs an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) without requiring any stored energy: all necessary power is drawn from the smartphone. It performs a triplexed immunoassay not currently available in a single test format: HIV antibody, treponemal-specific antibody for syphilis, and non-treponemal antibody for active syphilis infection.
…During the field testing in Rwanda, health care workers were given 30 minutes of training, which included a user-friendly interface to aid the user through each test, step-by-step pictorial directions, built-in timers to alert the user to next steps, and records of test results for later review. The vast majority of patients (97%) said they would recommend the dongle because of its fast turn-around time, ability to offer results for multiple diseases, and simplicity of procedure.
A new study focused on the role of something that’s a bit of a hybrid between old and new school: Craigslist classifieds, which have also become a popular way of arranging hookups. By comparing areas before and after the arrival of a local Craigslist, Jason Chan and Anindya Ghose found that the availability of these classifieds are associated with a 16 percent increase in new HIV infections.
The study was prompted by a couple of well-described phenomena. One is that people are using the convenience and relative anonymity of the Internet to find partners; interviews with users of various services show that they post ads not only for what the authors term “no-strings-attached relationships,” but they’re also looking for more diverse sexual experiences, and part of that includes having multiple partners (not necessarily at once).
The other thing that intrigued the authors is the fact that HIV rates in most of the US had either been steady or falling through the early part of this century. But starting in 2005, that trend reversed, and rates have continued to climb since. This trend has often been attributed to the development of effective viral control strategies, which have reduced the fear of infection.
While lab test shows that the latex barrier can stop all the virus, other test results about the uncontrolled real life usage of condoms demonstrates that a sock made of a delicate barrier, placed by an operator under not quite cool headed conditions, after being stored for who knows how long, in unsuitable conditions (think the car glovebox)… The estimates for actual efficacy goes down to about 70%… If the condoms are new, having been in proper storage and checked to be properly in place – they work much closer to the theoretical effectiveness. That’s still 70% better than no condom…