A bottle of the HIV drug known as abacavir.

Computer Analyzes Adverse HIV Drug Effects

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A bottle of the HIV drug known as abacavir.

Scientists use technology to simulate an HIV drug and the cells.

Drugs are often a double-edged sword. While their purpose is to cure or alleviate symptoms caused, many of them come with complications. This is often the case with drugs for severe conditions such as HIV drugs.

Furthermore, HIV is one of the most troublesome diseases in the world. Medications help fight off the virus but they can also have adverse effects on the body. One of the most common drugs for HIV is abacavir. The side effects of this drug are rare but a certain portion (5 to 8 percent) of patients do experience an intense allergic reaction to it.

Abacavir is known to cause hypersensitivity syndrome. This is a life threating reaction which can cause fever, rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If patients have a particular human leukocyte antigen (HLA), these symptoms usually appear within the first two to six weeks of taking the HIV drug.

The HLA protein is a substance that induces an immune response. These proteins are located on the surface of a cell and often communicate with T-cells. If an entity other than a co-binding peptide binds to an HLA protein and changes it, the protein will deem it foreign. This signals the T-cells, and cause an immune response. Often, the abacavir drug appears as an unknown entity when it tries to bind to the cells.

Researchers Take a Closer Look at HIV Drug

A test was performed at North Carolina State University. Researchers used a computer model to get a closer look at the abacavir drug reaction on a molecular level. They wanted to see the drug’s interaction with the HLA proteins.

“There are 15,000 variants of HLA, and everyone carries some of these variants,” says Denis Fourches, assistant professor of chemistry at NC State. “HLA-B*57:01 is one of the first variants studied in the context of a drug-induced immune reaction. We know that it binds with abacavir, but little was understood about exactly what was happening structurally at the molecular level, especially in terms of the relationship with the co-binding peptide. This is a very complex system.”

The computer was able to create 3D models of the HLA protein, abacavir, and the co-binding peptides. Researchers simulated the docking process with and without co-binding peptides. They also ran simulations of the process with 13 other HIV drugs that have similar effects.

“The models allowed us to identify key atomic interactions that cause abacavir and other drugs to bind to the HLA variant protein and ultimately trigger the immune response,” Fourches says. “When you can forecast and understand the elements of the drug that enable the binding to occur, you may be able to create new active compounds that do not have that problem.”

The research team at NC state hopes that his in-depth look at binding process will provide them a better understanding of how the immune system reacts to drugs. With this knowledge, they can predict the side effects of medications. In the future, they can also build better drugs. Hopefully, they will avoid life-threatening situations.

Several HIV medicines laid out on a white surface.

Nanotechnology May Improve HIV Medicines

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Several HIV medicines laid out on a white surface.

Nanotechnology proves to be the breakthrough that HIV medicines need.

Scientists and researchers focus on the improvement of HIV medicines in order to one day find a cure for the virus. Another reason the medical society puts so much effort into better medicine is to improve the lives of patients. In a new trial, the University of Liverpool has found success in using nanomedicine to potentially reduce the dosage of HIV treatment.

Using Nanotechnology for HIV Medicines

Nanotechnology is the process of making things on a smaller scale. That requires the manipulation of matter on the atomic, molecular, and supramolecular level. In nanomedicine, this means smaller, less expensive pills that work more effectively. This technology can change the way that future medicine is made.

The University of Liverpool’s Success

Both doctors and patients alike are hopeful for nanomedicine’s success. The University of Liverpool led a trial to prove the benefits of this type of medicine, with the intent to promote its usage within the scientific community.

The results from their trial showed that nanomedicine is far more effective. The body is able to absorb more of the drug. This means that patients can receive the same quality treatment and reduce the number of dosages they take. In fact, they found that patients could take potentially take half of the dosage and fight off the disease.

Today’s HIV therapies require daily doses just to keep up with the virus. This medicine can save HIV-positive individuals a significant amount of money on treatment. In certain countries where HIV is prevalent, this could mean better access to treatment by making the drugs more affordable.

Nanomedicine may also prevent non-adherence to therapy, which happens often when patients undergo the strain of taking medications daily. If the success of this trial can influence future HIV medicine, then this might prove great news for patients fighting against the virus. Hopefully, more research can lead to the technology’s implementation.

A picture of an antiretroviral pill, which gay men use to prevent the spread of HIV.

Better HIV Treatment Leads to Riskier Behavior in Gay Men

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A picture of an antiretroviral pill, which gay men use to prevent the spread of HIV.

Antiretroviral drugs are having an unintended effect on gay men.

The advancements in HIV treatment have made it easier to stall the progression of the virus. However, a new study suggests that the news of these treatments is having an unintended consequence. More gay men are engaging in risky behavior because they believe that antiretroviral medicines will keep them safe. However, the continuation this kind of behavior only increases their risk despite taking proper prevention methods.

The Risk to Gay Men

Gay Men are already more likely to contract HIV than others. In 2015, gay and bisexual men accounted for 67 percent of all new diagnoses. Anal sex is the highest risk factor for HIV transmission. Receptive anal sex puts more men at risk than insertive anal sex. This is because of the rectums thin lining, which allows HIV to enter the body more easily. The transmission of HIV can happen from semen or pre-seminal fluid.

The Danger of Relying Solely on Medicinal HIV Treatment

Study leader Seth Kalichman of the University of Connecticut and his team analyzed a survey spanning 19 years. Participants at a gay pride event noted their sexual habits. Here is what they found:

  • An increase in condomless sex among men.
  • A rise in the number of sexual partners that men engaged with.
  • Condomless receptive anal sex has doubled in HIV-negative men.
  • Condomless insertive anal sex has tripled in HIV-negative men.

We are seeing a considerable increase in unsafe sex because gay men perceive antiretroviral drugs to be enough. However, after looking at the survey data, they found there wasn’t much of a reduction of new HIV infections in major cities. In fact, certain countries with HIV testing programs and antiretroviral drugs have seen infection grow among gay men. The risk remains when unsafe behavior increases.

Kalichman concludes that “The current study adds to the mounting evidence that substantial changes have occurred in community-held beliefs that condomless anal sex is safer in the era of HIV treatment as prevention.”

A hand holding an AIDs ribbon to spread awareness about mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission Eliminated in Thailand

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A hand holding an AIDs ribbon to spread awareness about mother-to-child HIV transmission.

WHO’s guidelines have influenced Thailand’s government to curb mother-to-child HIV transmission.

One of the biggest concerns in the world is the spread of HIV. This happens through unprotected sex, sharing needles, and more. Actions like these leave adults at risk. Unfortunately, the spread of HIV doesn’t stop with there. HIV transmission can happen during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding as well, causing an unborn child or infant to contract the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has made efforts to stop mother-to-child HIV transmission, and it has worked for Thailand.

Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission

Parents and soon to be mothers with HIV need to be aware that pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding is the most common to spread the disease to your child. The CDC states these three facts:

  • Approximately 8,500 women living with HIV give birth annually.
  • Most (73%) of the estimated 174 children in the United States who were diagnosed with HIV in 2014 got HIV through perinatal transmission.
  • Most (88%) of the estimated 104 children in the United States diagnosed with AIDS in 2014 got HIV through perinatal transmission.

In order to protect your child, it is important to be tested once you discover that you are pregnant. The risk of HIV significantly decreases to around 1 percent if HIV medicines are taken within the first 4-6 weeks.

How Thailand Has Eliminated This Transmission

Around the mid-1990’s, the rate of mother-to-infant HIV transmissions in Thailand was 20-40 percent. Using WHO’s recommended strategy, the government has successfully reduced transmissions to 1.9 percent. This strategy focuses on four areas of prevention and care:

  • The prevention of HIV in women of childbearing age
  • Stopping unintended pregnancies in women living with HIV
  • The prevention of HIV transmission from an HIV-infected woman to her infant
  • Provision of appropriate treatment, care, and support to women and children living with HIV

Thanks to the government’s initiative, they followed this strategy through the promotion of condoms, the distribution of HIV risk materials, and other efforts. Soon, more government money flowed into Thailand’s HIV/AIDS programs because of their successful efforts. Women have since had more access to HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy.

Awareness and determination like this spell a bright future for stopping HIV in its tracks.

Testing equipment used to find out a patient's diabetes risk.

Diabetes Risk: HIV Patients Have a Higher Risk

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Testing equipment used to find out a patient's diabetes risk.

Researchers discover that the HIV virus may cause patients to have a higher diabetes risk.

Patients with HIV are always at risk. They are left vulnerable to infections and other comorbidities due to the virus attacking their immune system. Scientists were startled when they made the revelation that HIV patients had a 4 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. This discovery was made in a recent study published in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care online journal.

Despite Low Obesity Rates, Diabetes Risk Persist

Obesity is a key indicator of diabetes. However, many patients with HIV do not have obesity, a fact leaving scientist confused. To find out just how prevalent diabetes is among the HIV population, researchers launched a probe into two sets of data from 2009-2010.

They analyzed a survey of 8,610 HIV-positive individuals in the Medical Monitoring Project (MMP) and another survey of 5,064 people without the disease who participated in the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Comparing these two sets of data would give them insights into the diabetes risk of those with and without HIV.

Here is the breakdown of what the researchers found:

  • One in 10 HIV patients had diabetes.
  • 4% of those with diabetes had type 1.
  • Over of those with diabetes had type 2.
  • 44% of HIV patients had and unspecified strain.
  • Over 8% of the general population had diabetes.
  • The occurrence of diabetes was 3.8% higher in HIV patients.

This study was able to show that HIV patients are at risk. However, since the research was purely observational, scientists were not able to make a definitive conclusion as to why. They know that obesity is still a risk factor, but due to its high absence in individuals with HIV, they have to think differently.

The researchers had this to say: “Additional research would help to determine whether [diabetes] screening guidelines should be modified to include HIV infection as a risk factor for [the condition], and to identify optimal management strategies in this population.”

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