Posts tagged HIV breakthrough
Studies have shown how a patient’s life expectancy with HIV has gotten better over the past 20 years. A lot of progress has been made. Researchers have found breakthrough treatment methods. And treatment itself has gotten more readily available.
It’s now well known that HIV is no longer a death march. Patients are now able to live fuller lives compared to previous decades. But how much longer are they expected to live for? And what factors lead to such vast improvements? Let’s take a closer look at that right now.
Life Expectancy With HIV Over The Years
From 1996-97, the death rate for HIV-positive people was at 7%. For people diagnosed with HIV, their average life span was typically 10 years. For 20-year-olds with the virus, it was higher. On average, they lived until 39. These numbers are now significantly better.
By 2006, that number jumped to 24 years. More than double the average from a decade previous. And a 20-year-old with HIV lived until 56 on average. That number is now in the high 60s. That leaves a separation of about 13 years between an HIV-positive and HIV-negative 20-year-old.
That’s the smallest gap in life expectancy between the two parties to date. It goes to show how far we’ve come in two decades. But that there’s still work to be done.
How Life Expectancy Has Improved
Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) was not yet readily available in 1996. That’s changed over the past two decades. As a result of there being easier access ART, it revolutionized HIV treatment. By preventing the virus from reproducing, ART is able to lower the viral load in the bloodstream. When successful, the viral load is so low that the virus is undetectable. HIV is still there. And it can still be spread to someone else. But there aren’t any symptoms.
Treatment is more effective across the board. Over half of those eligible for treatment are now receiving it. Also, Linkage to Care numbers continues to increase. The necessary work is being done.
In addition to being more effective, HIV treatment is now simpler, too. Fewer pills are needed. And there’s no longer a complex schedule to follow. A lot of patients can now take one pill a day and be fine. They work for a longer period of time and have fewer side-effects. It’s less likely for a patient to have to switch medications periodically.
Most people know that HIV negatively impacts the immune system, crippling the body’s ability to fight off infections. The key to fighting the virus is to find out how it infiltrates the immune system. New research has made some developments into HIV and tuberculosis bacterium (MTB).
The Danger of Tuberculosis Bacterium
Tuberculosis bacterium (MTB) is the bacteria that causes tuberculosis to occur. Normally, the immune system prevents this infection by enclosing the bacteria in scar tissue. It is due to this special defense that only around 10 percent of people with “latent” tuberculosis develops the condition. However, if a patient is infected with HIV, they are at a greater risk of contracting the disease.
How Doctors Are Using Research to Develop a Vaccine
When the researchers at the Linköping University in Sweden discovered the connection between HIV and tuberculosis bacterium, they wanted to know more. They first started their inquiry by examining dendritic cells. These cells are a crucial aspect of the immune system, breaking down the bacteria. The body’s T-cells then kills the leftover pieces of bacteria before it has a chance to harm the body any further.
HIV inhibits the dendritic and T-cells. While most research has only proved that the virus affects T-cells, its interaction with dendritic cells is a new development.
“We have now shown that HIV has a clear effect also on the innate immune defense, in particular, the dendritic cells, which link the innate and the adaptive immune defenses. Much work remains to be done, but we can already suggest that one important future treatment strategy for infection should be to find ways to strengthen or boost cells in the immune defense using what is known as ‘host-directed therapy’,” says study lead Robert Blomgran.
Tuberculosis is a disease that mainly affects the lungs, making life difficult. Hopefully, that vaccine can be developed, so that HIV patients can be better protected.
Nanotechnology sounds like science fiction. However, it is very real, and scientists are manipulating matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale in order to achieve great things. One prime example is the development of HIV drug therapies. In a research study by the University of Liverpool, they sought to improve how HIV drugs are delivered to patients.
The Problem With HIV Drugs
HIV is a serious disease. It requires powerful medicine in order to combat its effects. Unfortunately, the drugs used to combat the virus need to be taken daily. This can be difficult for many patients. Keeping up with their regimen requires sticking to an intense schedule and remembering to take pills. Some even quit taking the drugs because of how demanding the therapy is.
With Solid Drug Nanoparticle (SDN) technology, scientists hope to improve HIV drugs. HIV patients want better drugs. Theoretically, this technology should make it easier for their bodies to absorb them. If successful, this form of nanotechnology would reduce the number or doses that HIV patients have to take, and possibly save them money.
Making Nanotechnology Applicable
Nanotechnology is still a relatively new field, which means that it is going to take some time to develop. Even worse, this type of medicine isn’t readily available to HIV patients. Currently, the University of Liverpool is developing a novel water dispersible nanotherapy for a poorly soluble antiretroviral medicine called lopinavir. It is still in the testing phase; however, some are hopeful of its success.
Research leader and Pharmacologist Professor Andrew Owen says “The fruits of our interdisciplinary research are beginning to be realized. Our approach has the potential to overcome challenges with current antiretroviral therapy, which include administration of high doses needed to achieve efficacious concentrations in the body, and the urgent need for better formulations for children living with HIV.”
Antibodies are meant to identify and neutralize bacteria and viruses. In the fight against HIV, scientists hope to capitalize on this protein in order to cure people suffering from the virus. In a new study at the Rutgers University, researchers are hoping to find a way to prevent the contraction of HIV by using an experimental antibody.
The Experimental Antibody: VRC01
The AMP (Antibody Meditated Prevention) study is a clinical trial that is currently looking to prevent HIV-negative men and transgender individuals from acquiring HIV. The antibody, known as VRC01, was originally found in a man who was able to combat the infection without the use of medication. When scientists discovered this, they worked to recreate the antibody and test its effects on others.
The study targeted men who have sex with other men (homosexual, bisexual, and transgender) for a specific reason. According to the CDC, new diagnoses of HIV in the United States have dropped 19 percent from 2005 to 2014. However, among the Hispanic/Latino and African American community, infections in gay and bisexual men have increased.
Scientists feel like the study will have a positive impact. According to infectious disease specialist and site leader Shobba Swaminathan, “The study is providing ways for Rutgers to effectively partner with and engage the community effectively to ensure a positive impact that will last long after the study is completed.”
The study is testing the antibody on 2,700 HIV-negative men and transgender individuals who have sex with men. The antibody works by preventing the infection from attaching to host CD4 and T Cells. This helps the immune system function properly and fight infections. So far, laboratory tests have shown the antibody to be 90 percent effective.
Swaminathan is optimistic about this study. She calls it “The first study of this magnitude to see whether an antibody infusion can help prevent new HIV infections. If it proves effective, it could potentially pave a way for developing a vaccine for HIV infection.”
The race to stop the spread of HIV continues. Despite the best efforts of doctors and researchers, new cases of the viral infection continue to crop up. That is why a preclinical trial is important. Halting this spread depends on finding solutions that work, and are also cost effective so as to be readily available in poorer countries. The urgency is more critical than ever before, yet there is the promise of effective vaccines, new treatments, and perhaps a cure someday. While the search for better treatments and cures is at its peak, an HIV vaccine option has emerged that has the scientific community buzzing. To date, it has proven successful in two preclinical trials.
A Second Preclinical Trial Confirms the Results
The HIV vaccine in question is designed to prevent infection obtained via mucosal membranes. Specifically, it has been tested both times in conditions that mimic male-to-female contact, with the male being the one infected and the female receiving the vaccine. A second line of defense that’s designed into the vaccine is to protect against infection by generating blood antibodies. A similar preclinical trial was first conducted in China, where results showed enough promise to warrant the study be done again, but on a slightly larger scale. It was this second study that produced excitement at the promise of a potential new vaccine. Just as the first study was successful, the second preclinical trial repeated those results. Even with repeated exposure to the virus, the vaccines were able to stave off infection. Not only that, each exposure was up to 100,000 times the normal dose of HIV passed from human to human.
What now? A component of the vaccine has been tried on human participants. This first phase of clinical trials yielded positive results, especially in regards to safety and tolerance. This particular vaccine has other benefits its designers implemented that give it global appeal. For instance, it will be tested and available in liquid form and needle-free. This is done with the goal of making it readily affordable to countries or areas with limited resources in order to reach as many as possible.