Posts tagged antiviral compounds
Low Risk of Birth Defects: HIV and Antiretroviral Medication
With new compounds and therapies expanding what can be done for individuals living with HIV, more and more infected women are looking towards pregnancy and childbirth. The combination of pregnancy and the latest antiviral medications is always a cause of concern, as we often don’t have enough data to make a definitive decision on whether a certain medicine should be given to an individual while pregnant. We also need to know when it is most likely for a mother to infect her infant, and which medicines are best at keeping the rate of infection low. Certainly, many antiretroviral drugs developed in the fight against HIV have been thought to increase the potential of birth defects in the unborn children. A new study, however, shows the opposite. Indeed, it confirms a low risk of birth defects by antiretroviral medications used during pregnancy.
This study – the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS) Surveillance Monitoring of ART Toxicities (SMARTT) study – released its findings on 10 November 2014. Atazanavir was the only antiretroviral drug that was shown to increase the otherwise low risk of birth defects among HIV-positive women. This medication showed a 2-fold increase in the risk of birth defects, particularly musculoskeletal and skin anomalies. However, another study confirmed that at least three varied regimens of anti-HIV medications—that did not include atazanavir—was safe for women who are expecting. In fact, all other antiretroviral, anti-HIV medications tested in these studies showed no increase in the risk of birth defects. This is great news for HIV infected women who still want to become mothers. With the risks of infecting their child minimal, and the side effects almost non-existent, the hopes of researchers are high that we will find ways to altogether eliminate the transfer of HIV between mother and child.
New Anti-HIV Drugs: Research in Stopping AIDS
In December of 2013, researchers at the University of Minnesota published some very striking and uniformly positive findings in the fight against HIV. They discovered several compounds that uniquely targeted HIV cells. These compounds – ribonucleoside analogs 8-azaadenosine, formycin A, 3-deazauridine, 5-fluorocytidine and 2’-C-methylcytidine – stop HIV replication by blocking DNA synthesis. This is achieved by causing the HIV cells to drop their DNA load before they are ready to and not within blood cells. The compounds also cause the HIV cells to mutate so rapidly that the cells essentially mutate themselves into extinction. The findings were a surprise to most of the anti-HIV research community, because the compounds in question were not on anyone’s radar. In fact, they seemed to have no potential for stopping HIV. Another major benefit to these compounds is the low cost of synthesizing them into new anti-HIV drugs. This is always an important factor, as it lessens the burden for the future prevention and treatment of HIV.
In fact, this is what has been occurring over the past year. The new anti-HIV drugs, which were synthesized version of these compounds, have been introduced in tangent with currently approved HIV medications. So far, the reports have been positive. Although the drugs do not fully eradicate HIV from an infected person’s system, the new drugs can be used along with lower doses of more expensive medications. With this tandem approach, the infection is kept low and extremely manageable. Having a minimal viral load results in low immune activity and prevents the virus cells from spreading throughout the body. Because of this symptoms are virtually absent. This translates into lower costs for a lifelong regimen of anti-HIV medication, both for the individual patients and for health care systems worldwide.
Computers Against HIV: A Striking Ally
Research into eliminating HIV and AIDS has always been a battle against time. Certain compounds that were once successful in destroying the virus cells, or in causing them to become sterile or inefficacious, are now worthless against the virus. This is a direct result of the ability of HIV to constantly mutate and adapt. Thus, new compounds are continually needed, and new methods of treatment are constantly sought after. One group of researchers, based at the University of Southern Denmark, are exploring methods that would accelerate the very process of finding new compounds that can be used against the HIV cells. What they’ve successfully done is to use computers to find potential compounds against HIV—at a rate magnified by several hundred percent! It might be said, then, that the use of computers against HIV has enlisted a formidable new ally in the war against HIV.
The problem is not the lack of compounds that have the potential to destroy or effectively stop the HIV cells. These days, scientists are able to reproduce almost anything imaginable in their laboratories. The problem is to effectively find and identify those compounds. By using computers based on quantum physics – which speed up processing times by several fold – the researchers at USD were able to pinpoint compounds that have varied effects on the HIV cells.
Many of these compounds do not kill the cells outright but, instead, stop HIV cells from being able to reproduce. ‘HIV is a retrovirus that contains enzymes which make it able to copy itself with the help of host genetic material and thus reproduce. If you can block these enzymes’ ability to replicate itself, the virus cannot reproduce.’ This is according to Vasanthanathan Poongavanam, a member of the research team at Southern Denmark. The group was able to identify 25 promising compounds. When the 25 compounds were then tested using the group’s advanced computer systems the field was narrowed to 14, which inhibited the virus’s ability to reproduce. ‘It took us only a few weeks to find these 14 very interesting compounds, whereas before it would have taken years.’ All of this illustrates that using computers against HIV has brought a daunting new player onto the field.
Soy Sauce and HIV: Japanese Condiment Sheds New Light
Antiretroviral drug therapies are the key treatments used against HIV today. Such therapies have proven effective and have turned the tide on the virus increasing both life expectancy and quality of life. Yet, it is common for patients suffering from HIV to develop a resistance to some of the therapies of choice. This can be a real problem as substitute therapies are usually harsher and not quite as effective. Soy sauce and HIV, four words that we wouldn’t usually see in combination, may present a solution.
A few years ago, a Japanese company was looking to enhance the flavor of their soy sauce. The discovery of a new compound led to further investigation. It turns out that what they had found was a compound similar to what is currently used in antiviral therapies. The difference with this compound and typical therapies for HIV is in how the compound works against HIV and, especially, in its ability to escape detection from the virus.
The new compound, EFdA, is a nucleoside analogue that tricks the virus and halts reproduction. Compounds such as the ones used in treatment look like the building blocks used by HIV to replicate and spread. The imposter compounds, however, thwart this process thus stunting the spread of the virus. Benefits of EFdA include its ability to remain unnoticed by the virus. Unlike presently used molecules, HIV has not been able to resist their attacks.
Ongoing research continues to show good results. The complexity of its structure is currently the focus of study. There is a sort of ‘key’ that unlocks the compound and sets it off to do its job. Figuring out how the compound is structured will help researchers unlock its potential and put it to use. It is hoped that this will spawn newer, more effective treatments that can last for years without the virus developing resistance. Soy sauce and HIV, who would have known?
A New Arsenal in the War Against HIV: Geraniums May Fight HIV
It’s not a new notion that something we find growing in the backyard could be useful for other applications apart from its intended use. That is what researchers have recently discovered about the humble, yet beautiful geranium plant. Geraniums may fight HIV and could have an important role on the war against HIV and AIDS. While it is still early, the results are nearly completely positive and continue to show promise.
Certain areas in Europe are already using the extract taken from the root of the geranium plant as medicinal therapy for such ailments as bronchitis. A group of researchers decided to see what effect, if any, this plant would have on HIV. When it was tested, it acted as a strong deterrent against the virus. It prevented invasion of key cells, such as those found in the blood and immune system. The geranium extract acts as a doorkeeper or guard for the healthy cells. When HIV tries to invade by attaching itself to cell receptors, it finds itself unable to do so. With all entrances blocked, infection is greatly slowed. This could mean developing new medications that would severely limit HIV and its means of invasion.
Further investigation has revealed a certain compound within the root extract called polyphenols. These substances when separated from the plant extract still carry a strong antiviral property. Geranium extract is safe to use as is, but polyphenols have been proven to be even less toxic to the body. It also does not require refrigeration, which would make it ideal (not to mention affordable) in areas where HIV is rampant but patients are unable to afford or refrigerate medications.
A safe and accessible potential new component of a drug, it appears geraniums may fight HIV just as effectively as current antiretroviral medications available now. Also, new therapies that incorporate the geranium extract could be on the market in a relatively short amount of time due to its hardy nature.