Posts tagged HIV testing
It has become increasingly important for scientists to understand the life cycles of viruses such as HIV, Zika, and Ebola. Learning how these microbes develop aids researchers in their quest for effective vaccines and treatments. Interrupting the vital processes is one way to curb or halt infection. Efforts to probe deeper into the maturing of HIV has yielded helpful insight.
Watching HIV Mature Through Computer Simulations
Computer simulations of HIV were used to follow the maturing process of the virus to see how it infects the host. The biological system that was computer simulated broadened understanding, and possibly hastened the production of more effective antiviral drugs. While the simulations are not real life, scientists admit it comes very close to predicting actual events. Identifying stages of viral maturation is significant to researchers. With the computer-generated model, two main aspects of this process were identified.
Observing the Processes
The capsid is a protein-derived capsule that is crucial to viral development, and correlates to its ability to infect a host. They observed how it is formed, and that it contains the virus’ genetic material. When the virus infects a cell, a bud is formed on the surface of that cell. Within this particle are proteins and genetic material. This bud will break free and travel through the body. During this traveling time, the proteins are broken up. The resulting pieces pair up, and as they do, the capsid is formed and surrounds the RNA.
As this process occurs, there is constant motion and flipping around. According to researchers, this happens so that proteins are correctly oriented when they pair up, and it helps control the rate of the building process.
The complexity of these described processes had to be simplified for the simulations. However, the more information that can be gathered and programmed into the computer models, the more exact they become. Scientists are confident that similar models could be observed for other types of viruses that also have a capsid. The Ebola and Zika viruses are both included in this category. With enough information and understanding, developing ways to effectively treat these resilient infections may become possible in the future.
Finding a cure for HIV has led researchers from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to closely examine some of the unique circumstances associated with the condition. In recent tests, detailed information about TLM B cells and the formation of antibodies has come to light. The results show why many who are infected but receive no treatment for HIV, produce ineffective antibodies against the virus. Here is what they discovered.
What the Study Revealed About Antibodies in TLM B Cells
When a person is infected with HIV, and it goes untreated, the number of certain immune cells increases. The resting memory B cell is what typically resides in those with no infection. Once HIV has taken hold, this type of B cell declines in number, and the tissue-like memory B cell increases. What do these B cells do? How does this shift affect the fight against the HIV infection?
When a virus or another intruder infects the body, the TLM B cells will respond by dividing. These divisions produce antibodies specifically designed to attack the invader. The antibodies go through mutations along the way in an effort to become more effective. What researchers found, however, was that with HIV, the TLM B cells divided more than the resting memory cells. However, despite this, the antibodies that they produced did not mutate as much. Without the mutations, the virus proves no match for the antibodies. The resting memory B cells created efficient antibodies – just not enough to combat the infection.
Why This Study Is Important
This information is helping researchers understand why those with HIV seem unable to produce effective antibodies against the virus. Insight into this matter will aid the scientific community in coming up with new strategies to combat HIV and its spread. This discrepancy in the type of B cells a person has in his or her blood is just one of many important factors in the spread of HIV within a person’s body.
HIV infection has long been known to cause immune exhaustion. Even with current therapies, this is a chronic issue. Finding ways to lessen the burden on the immune system, while still keeping the virus at bay, have been studied. Recently, some new experimental treatments have brought to light some interesting conclusions on the matter. It is hoped that the information thus gathered will help control the problem for many in the near future.
What the Research Reveals About Immune Exhaustion
Delicate balances keep everything in existence – from the largest systems to the smallest organisms. The interactions between the medications that keep the HIV counts low, the immune T cells, and the proteins that signal immune exhaustion are extremely precise and particularly balanced. Researchers have studied the effects of blocking the protein pathways, which are known to signal the exhaustion. In doing so, they have discovered that people can recover from immune exhaustion. However, a number of things must be in place for this to happen.
The exhausted T cells are the ones that have the protein, PD-1, which signals the exhaustion. The partner to that protein binds to it, and this is how researchers can identify the exhausted cell. By blocking the path between these two proteins, the immune system has a chance to regain normal function.
A Very Specific Process
When tested, this strategy was effective, but only under specific circumstances. First, if viral levels in the blood were high, adding the protein blockade actually increased viral production. Best results were yielded when the viral load was low. Also important is how the T cells react, as their numbers also increase. However, with low viral load and cooperating immune cells, restoring a measure of strength back to the immune system is possible with this method.
Further testing is underway, as are trials to see just how effective this approach can be. Of course, if implemented in the future, patient screening will be necessary. In the meantime, antiretroviral therapies continue to be an important part of both managing viral count and slowing disease progression.
HIV Infected Individuals and Age Related Diseases: Appear at Similar Age as in Uninfected Adults
Heart attacks, cancer, and kidney failure among HIV-infected individuals has been thoroughly researched and the data shows that infected individuals are more likely to develop one of these diseases than people who are not HIV positive. This research began to be compiled in the mid-1990s, when those infected with HIV were starting to live longer thanks to new antiretroviral medications. Before these drugs were created, contracting HIV was almost certainly a death sentence. When HIV/AIDs first came onto the scene, the HIV cells would eradicate the immune system, the person would develop AIDS, and common diseases like the cold or influenza would ravage the body and kill the host. In the years since, however, antiretroviral drugs have been developed and continually improved upon, and HIV has become a manageable disease. In fact, many HIV-positive individuals have been able to live out their lives with the infection and, in the U.S. and other developed countries, are now dying of non-HIV related circumstances. With the numbers of older HIV-positive individuals growing, the amount of research on those in this group has increased. The latest studies now suggest that among HIV infected individuals, age-related diseases appear at similar ages, as compared with uninfected individuals.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health used data from almost 100,000 individuals, both infected and uninfected, who suffered from age-related diseases between 2003 and 2010. The results confirmed that those who are HIV-infected tend to develop heart attacks, cancer, and kidney failure much more commonly than in uninfected adults. However, it also showed that the ages of those developing heart attacks and cancer were the same in both infected and uninfected patients. Moreover, kidney failure seemed to only have a six-month gap between infected patients and patients who were not HIV positive. This news, that among HIV infected individuals age-related diseases appear at similar ages regardless of HIV status, shows that the timeline of getting checked for these diseases does not have to be significantly altered. However, the importance of checkups is still much greater for HIV-infected adults.
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.