Posts tagged STI prevention
The Zika virus is a disease that has recently reemerged over the past few years. Doctors discovered the disease in the Zika Forest of Uganda, during the 40’s. Over the past decade, the virus has made its way across the Pacific Ocean and to the Americas, causing an unprecedented epidemic. Find out why so many people are worried about the Zika virus, and what you should know about this troubling disease.
What Makes the Zika Virus So Dangerous?
The Zika virus is related to the dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and the West Nile viruses. Like many of these viruses, Zika is most commonly transmitted through mosquitoes. However, what makes the disease truly troubling is that it can also spread from mother to child, through sex, and through blood transfusions, making it a sexually transmitted disease.
People who contract the Zika virus don’t usually display any signs or symptoms of the disease. When people do show signs of the virus, the most common symptoms are fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain. These are mild symptoms, lasting for only a few days or a week. What makes Zika such dangerous condition is how it affects women who are pregnant. The virus can cause severe birth defects, as well as miscarriages and stillbirths.
A recent study at the published in the EMBO Journal looked into why the virus seems to affect people more during pregnancy than after. Researchers found is that low levels of an antiviral factor called interferon-induced transmembrane protein 3 (IFITM3) leave the body susceptible to the virus. IFITM3 prevents the multiplication of the virus and the cells from dying.
Preventing the Virus From Affecting You
The researchers of the Zika study hope to develop drugs in the future to prevent the destruction of cells and the virus. For now, the CDC recommends several ways to avoid contracting the virus.
- Keep Bugs Away – The first method is to keep mosquitoes away from you. Mosquitoes are the primary cause of the virus. It is advised that people wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and used EPA-registered insect repellents.
- Prep Your Home – Mosquitoes can easily invade your home. That’s why the CDC suggest keeping the air conditioner on and closing your windows and screen doors. You should also use mosquito netting to cover bedding for you and your children.
- Use Protection During Sex – Like most sexually transmitted disease, condoms and abstinence will protect you or your partners from contracting the disease.
- Avoid Traveling to Zika Areas – The CDC stresses that pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas at risk for Zika. They are more vulnerable to the dangerous effects of the virus.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the Zika Virus. Taking these precautions will help keep you safe. The CDC is still researching a way to reduce the spread of this disease and eventually cure it. It is also important to get tested for the virus. By knowing if you are infected with the virus, you can plan for the future.
Silver Nanoparticles Fight HIV
Researchers from Mexico that specialize in virology have discovered that silver nanoparticles have the ability to block the transmission of HIV-infected cells by working against the protein that facilitates the virus adhering to healthy cells. With this knowledge, specialists have created a silver nanoparticle vaginal cream that is designed to stop the transmission of HIV. Even though the mechanism of delivery is a cream intended for female use, it would in theory protect both sexual partners from the acquiring the virus. The cream starts working within 60 seconds of application and lasts for three days.
So far the silver nanoparticle vaginal cream has been tested in human tissue and there are plans to test it using mice and then move onto clinical trials. In the past, treatment for HIV has focused mainly on fighting the replication of the virus after it has hijacked the cell and its machinery. This new development, however, would prevent the virus from even entering the cell. The tests so far have proved that the cream is very effective in keeping the virus from adhering to the cell, but further testing is required to see what the possible side effects could be.
Irritation at times can make it easier for the virus to enter the tissue. Since topical applications can cause irritation, scientists added an anti-inflammatory agent to the cream. If this cream proves efficient and nontoxic in further trials, it could be used to protect people from other types of sexually transmitted diseases, such as the human papilloma virus (HPV), along with sexually transmitted bacterial infections.
The same team is also working on a kit to test HIV-positive blood for its reaction to antiretroviral drugs. These kits could help doctors prescribe the most effective treatment for each individual patient. In order to fully develop this kit, many more clinical trials are needed.
It is encouraged to give a brief counseling session or provide information to patients who tested positive for HIV. This is done in hopes that it would help to reduce sexually transmitted infections or STI in the future. The goal is to provide practical risk reduction information and reasonable precautionary steps to take at HIV testing. With the number of HIV infections holding steady, counseling seemed a logical way to help curb the numbers. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of such counseling and education, a study was conducted. The results were both surprising and disappointing.
Over a million persons in the USA are infected with HIV. The number of those infected per year has not reduced much at all. To complicate matters more, it is estimated that nearly one in five HIV patients is undiagnosed. Therefore, the recommendation was made that patients with ages ranging from teenager to retiree should be tested. Along with the scanning for HIV, a brief counseling session would be given in hopes of preventing further spread of both HIV infection and STI.
With costs on the rise, a study was conducted to see whether the counseling was effective. One study followed over 5.000 patients from nine STI clinics across the country. The patients were each given the recommended session of counseling and then followed up with after six months. Researchers noted that there was nearly no change in participants. Those who received counseling versus those who simply received information came up with nearly identical results.
While it has long been believed that counseling to help reduce transmission risk and behavior is important, this recent study may prove otherwise. Funding to programs for education and counseling is expensive and experts are now wondering if money would be better spent on another approach.