Tuesday, December 2, 2014

HIV news for World AIDS Day


Yesterday (which is still today from Chicago west to the Aleutians) was World AIDS Day.  I marked it a week late last year, when I posted AIDS: The pandemic in our midst. This year, I'm observing it along with the western two-thirds of North America and all of the eastern Pacific, so I'm not completely tardy.

Like last year, I'm sharing the news stories from Overnight News Digests, this time going back to The Archdruid on Ebola and other epidemic news, the last time I mentioned the disease.  I begin with two stories about in utero HIV transmission.

SUNY Stony Brook: Dr. Sharon Nachman Leads Network Involving NIH-Sponsored Study that Identifies Superior Drug Regimen for Preventing Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission
Stony Brook, NY – November 24, 2014 – The results of an international clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that taking a three-drug regimen during pregnancy prevents mother-to-child HIV transmission more effectively than taking a single drug during pregnancy, another during labor, and two more after giving birth.

“This study will help us to understand the safety and toxicity of these specific regimens in HIV positive pregnant women and their children,” said Dr. Nachman, Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Pediatrics at Stony Brook Medicine, and the Principal Investigator of the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) network, which conducts the PROMISE (Promoting Maternal Infant Survival Everywhere) Study. “As these women and children are followed, we will learn more about the long-term issues that may arise from these medications.”
Wayne State University: Research shows anti-HIV medicines can cause damage to fetal hearts
Just-published findings in the journal AIDS raise concern about potential long-term harmful impact of “antiretroviral therapy” on in-utero infants whose mothers are HIV-positive, but who are not infected with HIV themselves.
November 19, 2014
DETROIT, Mich., Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 – A study by a Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Detroit Medical Center research team is shedding new light on the troubling question of whether the drugs often given to HIV-positive pregnant women can cause significant long-term heart problems for the non-HIV-infected babies they carry.

The study recently published in the journal AIDS shows that while the HIV medications have been successful in helping to prevent the transmission of the virus from mother to infant, they are associated with persistently impaired development of heart muscle and reduced heart performance in non-HIV-infected children whose mothers received the medicines years earlier.

“What our study indicates is that there’s potentially a long-term price to be paid for protecting the children of HIV-infected mothers from the virus,” said Steven Lipshultz, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and chair of pediatrics for the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Lipshultz is a specialist in the study of long-term toxic cardiac effects among children affected by cancer and HIV drug therapies.
Follow over the jump for more stories from the past three months in reverse chronological order.

SUNY Buffalo: A hybrid vehicle that delivers DNA
The new transport system for DNA vaccines could help treat HIV, malaria, HPV and other major illnesses
By Cory Nealon
Release Date: November 25, 2014
BUFFALO, N.Y. – A new hybrid vehicle is under development.

Its performance isn’t measured by the distance it travels, but rather the delivery of its cargo: vaccines that contain genetically engineered DNA to fight HIV, cancer, influenza and other maladies.

Described recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the technology is a biomedical advancement that could help unleash the potential of DNA vaccines, which despite two decades of research, have yet to make a significant impact in the treatment of major illnesses.
The Oregonian via Portland State University: The Oregonian: Portland State professor unlocks virus that could lead to drugs for HIV
Author: Lynne Terry, The Oregonian
Posted: November 20, 2014
A Portland State University biology professor who's been tramping around the globe for 18 years hunting viruses has marked a breakthrough that could help patients infected with the HIV virus that leads to AIDS.

Professor Ken Stedman and his team are the first to unlock the structure of a virus found in volcanic hot springs in Japan. The discovery took their breath away: It resembled human immunodeficiency virus, which scientists had thought was unique.
Ken Stedman in lab.Kelly James.jpeg

"It's a lot like two HIVs stuck together," Stedman said. "It's a really big milestone."

His finding, made in collaboration with biologist Marc Morais at the University of Texas Medical Branch, could pave the way for the development of HIV drugs that disturb the virus' structure, making it difficult for the organism to mutate and adapt.
University of Minnesota: New study reveals why some people may be immune to HIV-1
Natural genetic variation in a protective antiviral enzyme holds promise for new therapies
November 19, 2014
Doctors have long been mystified as to why HIV-1 rapidly sickens some individuals, while in others the virus has difficulties gaining a foothold. Now, a study of genetic variation in HIV-1 and in the cells it infects reported, by University of Minnesota researchers in this week’s issue of PLOS Genetics, has uncovered a chink in HIV-1’s armor that may, at least in part, explain the puzzling difference — and potentially open the door to new treatments.

HIV-1 harms people by invading immune system cells known as T lymphocytes, hijacking their molecular machinery to make more of themselves, then destroying the host cells — leaving the infected person more susceptible to other deadly diseases. T lymphocytes are not complete sitting ducks, however. Among their anti-virus defense mechanisms is a class of proteins known as APOBEC3s that have the ability to block the HIV-1’s ability to replicate. However, HIV-1 has a counter-defense mechanism — a protein called Vif that cons the T lymphocytes into destroying their own APOBEC3.

Suspecting differential susceptibility to HIV-1 might be related to genetic variations in this system, a research team led by Professor Reuben Harris of the University’s College of Biological Sciences and Medical School and doctoral student Eric Refsland, took a closer look. First, the researchers found that HIV-1 infection boosts the production of one kind of APOBEC3, APOBEC3H — suggesting it’s a key player in fighting back. Then, using an experimental technique known as separation of function mutagenesis, they discovered that different people have different strengths/potencies of APOBEC3H, with some proteins expressed stably and others inherently unstable.  The stable variations, the researchers found, were able to successfully limit HIV-1’s ability to replicate if the infecting virus had a weak version of Vif — but not for HIV-1 viruses that had strong Vif.
The Guardian: HIV pandemic originated in Kinshasa in the 1920s, say scientists
Thriving city with multiple transport links and influx of male labourers made it perfect incubator for pandemic strain of HIV
Ian Sample, science editor
A “perfect storm” of urban change that began in 1920s Kinshasa led to the catastrophic spread of HIV across Africa and into the wider world, according to scientists who used genetic sequencing and historical records to trace the origins of the pandemic.

Though the virus probably crossed from chimpanzees to humans in southern Cameroon years earlier, HIV remained a regional infection until it entered the capital of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

From the 1920s until 1960, the pandemic HIV strain – there were others that fizzled out – spread from Kinshasa, crossed borders to other nations, and ultimately landed on distant continents. It has infected nearly 75 million people worldwide to date.
Arizona State University: ASU students commit to boosting global health, starting with Uganda
September 24, 2014
Arizona State University is on a mission to empower its students to enact powerful and positive social change. One outgrowth is its relatively new GlobeMed chapter, helmed by undergraduate honors students Megan Atencia and Anna Simperova.

Atencia, a global health major, and Simperova, who is pursuing a bachelor’s in biological studies and a minor in family and human development, serve as co-presidents of the nonprofit. One day, they hope to work as physicians – an intensive care doctor and a pediatrician, respectively. In the meantime, they are getting community health experience while taking their spirit of service to the next level.

GlobeMed partners its chapters with communities to create sustainable health solutions specific to the communities’ needs. ASU’s chapter is matched with ICOD Action Network in Lyantonde, Uganda, and focuses on families and orphans affected by HIV/AIDS.
Just like the disease itself, the stories lead back to Africa.  The accident of chronology makes for an ending that seems like I planned it.

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