Posts tagged AIDS

A serious clinician studying a microscope, trying to make an HIV breakthrough.

HIV Breakthrough Deciphers the Structure of the Virus

A serious clinician studying a microscope, trying to make an HIV breakthrough.

An HIV breakthrough may have solved the structure of intasome.

There is one question that has eluded scientists for so many years. How does HIV integrate into human host DNA and replicate in the body? More than a decade later, researchers have found the answer. An HIV breakthrough at the Salk Institute has deciphered the structure of HIV machinery.

Intasome: The Machinery Making Trouble

HIV intasome is a large molecular machine that adds viral DNA into the genomes of its host. This machinery is responsible for HIV’s elusive nature and its ability to hide within the body.

According to Dmitry Lyumkis, senior author, and fellow at the Salk Institute: “HIV is a clever virus and has learned to evade even some of the best drugs on the market. Understanding the mechanisms of viral escape and developing more broadly applicable drugs will be a major direction in the future.”

Scientists have come up with a way to combat intasome before by using a drug called integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTIs). It is approved to treat the virus in both the U.S. and Europe. However, the drugs and HIV machinery are a bit of a conundrum. Without being able to study intasome on the atomic level, the drug’s effects are not as powerful as it should be, leaving scientist stumped on how it should work.

How This HIV Breakthrough Was Made

New technology allows us to do better things. The same is true within the scientific community. The state-of-the-art imaging technique called the single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) gave researchers the ability to image large, complex and dynamic molecules. Basically, they were able to see intasome structure clearly.

The molecular machine is composed of a four-part core but has many other complex parts to it. The researchers believe that this allows it to gain access to the cell’s nucleus through active transport instead of waiting for the cell to divide. Lyumkis calls for understanding each of these parts a bit more to combat the disease.

The Importance of Oral Health for HIV Patients

An illustration of all the different tools at your disposal to improve your oral health as an HIV patient.

Keeping tabs on your oral health as an HIV patient can prevent a lot of common side-effects.

One under-the-radar issue HIV patients might underestimate is the fragility of their oral health. It’s an important factor that warrants attention. Before antibodies appear, the mouth is the first part of the body that shows signs of carrying the infection. Catching the virus at such an early stage leads to earlier treatment and helps prevent the spreading of HIV to another partner.

It’s prudent for HIV patients to practice good oral health care. Proper hygiene and regular checkups with a dentist can make a world of difference. If you’re wondering what potential drawbacks poor hygiene in this body part may cause, here are some of the most common.

The Most Common Oral Health Side-Effects for HIV Patients

Of the many side-effects that come with having HIV, candidiasis (also known as thrush) is among the most common. Candidiasis can cause difficulty swallowing, a decreased appetite, and painful areas in the mouth.

Another potential red flag to look out for is hairy leukoplakia. Visible symptoms of hairy leukoplakia are white patches that form around the tongue. These patches are permanent. Regular oral health tools can’t remove them.

Oral health concerns of this ilk should not go ignored. If matters are left to linger, and if eating causes enough pain, these ailments have the potential to cause malnutrition. It can also influence how your body absorbs HIV medication.

Take Preventative Steps

HIV patients are more susceptible to infection, pain and tooth loss for a variety of reasons. But they’re still easily preventable problems if paid attention to early and often. Now that oral surgeons are noting the importance their field has in early detection, awareness could become more commonplace. Even small-scale measures, like brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing, will help you avoid most routine mouth problems. It’s another necessary aspect of living with HIV.

Life After AIDS

Life After AIDS: A Realistic Timetable

Up until 2001 and the advent of antiretroviral (ART) medications, HIV and AIDS was considered an epidemic, with death almost a certainty. Or, at least this was the case for those who were not wealthy or heavily covered by health insurance. AZT, the first popular antiretroviral drug, was extremely expensive. It was also only available in limited quantities, as manufacturers strained to produce enough of the drug for the needs of the worldwide population. This has all changed. Because of new research, a greater awareness of HIV, and insight into what the virus is and how it works, many scientists and doctors are reasonably hopeful in a future life after AIDS. In fact, some are even creating realistic timetables as to when this could be realized.

There is still no known cure for HIV infection. It is this virus – when left untreated – that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). There are several drugs available today, however, which can either deactivate HIV cells or kill them outright. Through a regimen of these drugs, a person can survive with HIV for many years, even decades, without ever developing AIDS.

Moreover, this new phase of research into anti-HIV medications has resulted in an outpouring of education and understanding about the virus and disease. Certainly, the stigmas that were once attached to AIDS in the 1980’s have lessened. Because of the new treatments and changing attitudes, many have come forward to be tested who, in the past, might have assumed they would die and didn’t come forward for treatment to avoid the ‘shame’ of being HIV positive. Thanks to this domino effect of research and awareness the number of deaths from AIDS, although still unacceptably high, has been drastically reduced to 3 million per year. It has also led to fewer new infections from HIV, which numbers around 3.5 million per year.

In impoverished countries, those without adequate access to drug therapies, medical facilities, and proper HIV education, the number of deaths to AIDS along with new cases of HIV is still on the rise. This is the biggest hurdle to achieving the lofty goal of a life after AIDS. Even so, with the dramatic results in the past 13 years in countries like the United States, many are hopeful that by the later end of the 21st century, it is possible there will be no new infections. This will only happen when drugs have advanced to the point that they can completely sterilize the virus and when said drugs are accessible to everyone in the world.

A World Without AIDS

A World Without AIDS: How Far Off?

If you are middle-aged or older, you may remember a world without AIDS. After all, it didn’t become a commonly known or understood disease until it started taking the lives of some famous individuals in the 1980s. Today, it is a worldwide epidemic with more than 35 million HIV-positive individuals across the globe. With we ever see a world without AIDS again? That was the question posed at a convention held this past year.

Researchers and top physicians gathered from around the world to discuss the steps involved in getting rid of HIV and AIDS for good. Hopes are high because of the emergence of a few cases of cured individuals. In fact, the first man ever cured from the disease addressed the audience of doctors and researchers, inspiring them to reach their ultimate goal. However, while we wait for the dream of an HIV free world to come about, what else is being done for those who have the disease and what is being done to reduce transmission?

Antiretroviral treatments exist today that allow people with HIV to live a normal lifespan. Of course, this has led to other previously unknown complications of the disease. Now that HIV no longer quickly advances to AIDS, cutting a person’s life short, doctors are discovering that HIV can cause many secondary problems. One of these complications is a series of neurological problems.

Other issues involve the fact that many HIV-positive people around the world live in poor countries. Some of these countries can’t afford proper screening to identify HIV-positive individuals. Others don’t have the refrigeration needed for various treatments. Additionally, most of these nations can’t afford to provide treatment for people who can’t afford it themselves.

This means that, at least for now, the war on HIV is about preventing its spread. This means education for those in the highest risk categories for becoming infected. It also means developing regular and affordable screening for all. These are some of the goals that major contributors to the cause—such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—are working towards.

In the meantime, it is important for everyone to follow safe sex practices to avoid contracting HIV. It also involves a willingness to get tested. Finally, it means sticking closely to a treatment regimen if you are infected with the disease. This is what individuals can do to play a role in eliminating HIV and AIDS for good. It is a wonderful goal: to once again see a world without AIDS.

AIDS Linked to Lymphoma

AIDS Linked to Lymphoma: CNS Involvement Is Vital

There are a number of connections between diseases that are well-documented and studied. There are also different systems in the body that seem to bear a connection with different diseases. HIV and AIDS seem to have connections with other diseases and with certain networks in the body. For example, doctors are aware that many who present with HIV or AIDS have a greater risk of developing lymphoma. New research shows that not only is AIDS linked to lymphoma, but that the operation of the central nervous system (CNS) also plays a role. The CNS is apparently closely linked to the lymphomas experienced by those with HIV and AIDS. What does this finding mean for a prognosis?

Researchers found that when a person has AIDS, they are at greater risk for lymphoma with central nervous system involvement. As the name suggests, lymphomas normally attack the lymph nodes. The next most common site, however, is the central nervous system. It appears the prognosis is not much different for HIV patients that present with either of these lymphomas. The study, however, found that when treating for cancer, CNS relapse was nearly 3 times more likely to happen in a person with AIDS. Moreover, because this form of cancer is particularly aggressive, the survival rate tends to be low. The hope is that knowing this link exists will help physicians to earlier detect and more effectively treat the disease. (Most people are probably aware that all forms of cancer are easier to treat the earlier that they are diagnosed).

After close consideration of cases of AIDS linked to lymphoma, it was noted that the majority presented with end-stage cancer. This may indicate that during the original diagnosis the CNS involvement may have been overlooked and, therefore, left untreated. Armed with this new information, doctors expect to be able to identify the disease sooner. Researchers, too, are looking into how the CNS is involved. The hope, of course, is this will lead to better treatment options in the future.

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