A Queensland Institute of Medical Research scientist has developed a way to use HIV to beat HIV in the laboratory.
Associate Professor David Harrich, from QIMR’s Molecular Virology Laboratory, has determined how to modify a protein in the virus, so that it instead provides strong, lasting protection from infection.
“This is like fighting fire with fire,” Associate Professor Harrich said.
“If this research continues down its strong path, and bear in mind there are a many hurdles to clear, we’re looking at a cure for AIDS.”
At least seven nude protesters stormed House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office in the Longworth House Office Building on Tuesday, according to reports from Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo and others who were there. The group was protesting cuts to HIV/AIDS funding that is possible as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.
I love civil disobedience that causes enough outrage to get your/the media’s attention, but leaves no lasting damage.
Nearly everyone ages 15 to 64 should be screened for HIV even if they’re not at great risk for contracting the virus, according to new guidelines proposed by an influential panel of medical experts. If the panel ultimately adopts those recommendations, Medicare and most private health insurers will be required to pay for the tests.
The draft guidelines were written by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group that operates under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services to advise the government and the nation’s physicians on the medical evidence for preventive health measures.
Posted online Monday on the task force website for a four-week period of public comment, the guidelines also recommend that doctors offer HIV tests to people under 15 or over 64 if they are at high risk for contracting HIV and — in advice that has not changed — to all pregnant women.
The recommendations, which would apply to all but very-low-risk populations, are a clear shift toward broader testing for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The task force’s 2005 guidelines suggested routine HIV screening only for adolescents and adults at increased risk, including men who have sex with men, injection drug users, people who trade sex for drugs and those who have multiple sexual partners.
Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) falsely claimed on Thursday that it was nearly impossible for someone to contract AIDS through heterosexual contact.
‘Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community,’ he told Michelangelo Signorile, who hosts a radio program on SiriusXM OutQ. ‘It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.’
‘My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.’
By Maggie Fox
updated 7/26/2012 2:51:07 PM ET
Two men unlucky enough to get both HIV and cancer have been seemingly cleared of the virus, raising hope that science may yet find a way to cure for the infection that causes AIDS, 30 years into the epidemic.
The researchers are cautious in declaring the two men cured, but more than two years after receiving bone marrow transplants, HIV can’t be detected anywhere in their bodies. These two new cases are reminiscent of the so-called “Berlin patient,” the only person known to have been cured of infection from the human immunodeficiency virus.
These two cases, presented as a ‘late-breaker’ finding on Thursday at the 19th annual International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., are among the reasons that scientists have been speaking so openly at the event about their hopes of finding a cure.
‘Everyone knows about this ‘Berlin patient’. We wanted to see if a simpler treatment would do the same thing’, said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who oversaw the study. The widely publicized patient, Timothy Brown, was treated for leukemia with a bone marrow transplant that happened to come from a donor with a genetic mutation that makes immune cells resist HIV infection. The transplant replaced his own infected cells with healthy, AIDS-resistant cells. He is HIV-free five years later.
AIDS patients are susceptible to cancers, but they usually stop taking HIV drugs before receiving cancer treatment. ‘That allows the virus to come back and it infects their donor cells,’ Kuritzkes said.
About 34 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, globally; 25 million have died from it. While there’s no vaccine, cocktails of powerful antiviral drugs called antiretroviral therapy (ART) can keep the virus suppressed and keep patients healthy. No matter how long patients take ART, however, they are never cured. The virus lurks in the body and comes back if the drugs are stopped. Scientists want to flush out these so-called reservoirs and find a way to kill the virus for good.
Brown, and now these two other men, offer some real hope.
Dr. Timothy Henrich and colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital launched a search about a year ago for HIV patients with leukemia or lymphoma who had received bone marrow stem cell transplants. Bone marrow is the body’s source of immune system cells that HIV infects and it’s a likely place to look for HIV’s reservoirs.
‘If you took an HIV patient getting treated for various cancers, you can check the effect on the viral reservoirs of various cancer treatments,’ Kuritzkes, who works with Henrich, said. They found the two patients by asking colleagues at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston which, like Brigham and Women’s, is associated with Harvard Medical School.
Both men had endured multiple rounds of treatment for lymphoma, both had stem cell treatments and both had stayed on their HIV drugs throughout. ‘They went through the transplants on therapy,’ Kuritzkes said.
It turns out that was key.
‘We found that immediately before the transplant and after the transplant, HIV DNA was in the cells. As the patients’ cells were replaced by the donor cells, the HIV DNA disappeared,’ Kuritzkes said. The donor cells, it appears, killed off and replaced the infected cells. And the HIV drugs protected the donor cells while they did it.
One patient is HIV-free two years later, and the other is seemingly uninfected three-and-a-half years later.
‘They still have no detectable HIV DNA in their T-cells,’ Kuritzkes said. In fact, doctors can’t find any trace of HIV in their bodies — not in their blood plasma, not when they grow cells in the lab dishes, not by the most sensitive tests.
Can the patients be told they are cured?
‘We’re being very careful not to do that,’ Kuritzkes said.
For now, both men are staying on AIDS drugs until they can be carefully taken off under experimental conditions. “We are not saying, ‘You are like the Berlin patient’.’
Although the men are HIV-free, Kuritzkes says it’s been an arduous experience for them. After being diagnosed HIV-positive, one underwent rounds of chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease, a kind of lymphoma, before receiving the final bone marrow transplant, called an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. It is not an easy treatment to endure.
The men, one from Boston and one from New York, were not initially told their HIV had seemingly disappeared. When researchers realized news media would cover the report, they were informed.
Neither man is being identified for privacy reasons but one is in his 50s and has been infected since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. The other man, in his 20s, was infected at birth.
The findings may not apply to all patients. Both men were a little unusual in that they had a genetic mutation that can make immune cells resistant to infection by HIV. Their new immune cells, however, which came from the donors, are fully susceptible to the virus.
‘We’re never really going to be able to do bone marrow transplants in the millions of patients who are infected,’ Kuritzkes said. ‘But if you can stimulate the virus and eliminate those cells, we can protect the remaining cells from being infected.’
Separately, two other studies presented at the conference have scientists optimistic about a cure. In one, a cancer drug called vorinostat flushed out latent HIV from a handful of patients, offering the possibility of killing these latent reservoirs. In another, about 15 French patients who got HIV drugs very early after their infections were able to stop treatment and don’t show any symptoms years later, even though they are still infected.
Organizers of the conference say the findings provide an argument for treating patients early. ‘(These studies) give us reason for enthusiasm, that ultimately we are going to get to where we needed to go, which is to cure people with HIV infection,’ said Dr. Steven Deeks, an HIV expert at the University of California, San Francisco.
An AIDS-free generation: It seems an audacious goal, considering how the HIV epidemic still is raging around the world.
Yet more than 20,000 international HIV researchers and activists will gather in the nation’s capital later this month with a sense of optimism not seen in many years — hope that it finally may be possible to dramatically stem the spread of the AIDS virus.
”We want to make sure we don’t overpromise,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious disease chief, told The Associated Press. But, he said, ”I think we are at a turning point.”
The big new focus is on trying to get more people with HIV treated early, when they’re first infected, instead of waiting until they’re weakened or sick, as the world largely has done until now. Staying healthier also makes them less likely to infect others.
That’s a tall order. But studies over the past two years have shown what Fauci calls ”striking, sometimes breathtaking results,” in preventing people at high risk of HIV from getting it in some of the hardest-hit countries, using this treatment-as-prevention and some other protections.
Now, as the International AIDS Conference returns to the U.S. for the first time in 22 years, the question is whether the world will come up with the money and the know-how to put the best combinations of protections into practice, for AIDS-ravaged poor countries and hot spots in developed nations as well.
”We have the tools to make it happen,” said Dr. Elly Katabira, president of the International AIDS Society, which organizes the world’s largest HIV conference, set for July 22-27. He points to strides already in Botswana and Rwanda in increasing access to AIDS drugs.
After decades of controversy, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new H.I.V. test on Tuesday that for the first time makes it possible for Americans to learn in the privacy of their homes whether they are infected.
The availability of an H.I.V. test as easy to use as a home-pregnancy kit is yet another step in the normalization of a disease that was once seen as a mark of shame and a death sentence.
The OraQuick test, by OraSure Technologies, uses a mouth swab and gives results in 20 to 40 minutes. A previous test sold over the counter required a user to prick a finger and mail a drop of dried blood to a lab.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the longtime AIDS researcher and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the new test a “positive step forward” and one that could help bring the 30-year-old epidemic under control.
Getting an infected person onto antiretroviral drugs lowers by as much as 96 percent the chance that he or she will transmit the virus to someone else, so testing and treatment have become crucial to prevention. About 20 percent of the 1.2 million infected Americans do not know they have the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, and about 50,000 more get infected each year.
Hydeia Broadbent was 7 when she had her Magic moment.
She was the tiny grade-schooler. He was one of the world’s greatest basketball players.
As she cried, Magic Johnson reached his giant right hand out and placed it on her shoulder. Neither knew what their futures held, but they had one thing in common bigger than both of them: They were HIV-positive.
“I want people to know,” Hydeia said, sniffling, “that we’re just normal people.”
“Aww, you don’t have to cry,” Johnson replied, “because we are normal people. OK? We are.”
That scene was captured as part of a Nickelodeon AIDS special 20 years ago to inform America’s youth that the disease could affect anyone.
One-on-one with Magic Johnson Magic Johnson and wife Cookie on HIV Magic Johnson: AIDS is still prevalent 1991: Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement
On a recent March night in Los Angeles, Johnson again hugged Hydeia, his 6-foot-9 frame dwarfing her diminutive 4-foot-8 stature. Both were on hand for the screening in Los Angeles of “The Announcement,” an ESPN documentary about his coming forward with HIV. Hydeia’s tearful plea as a child is replayed in the documentary.
Condoms and other safe-sex practices have accomplished only so much. Now the 30-year battle against AIDS is on the verge of a radical new phase, with the government expected to endorse a once-a-day pill to prevent infection with the virus.
Some doctors are already giving patients the drug, Truvada, to ward off infection. But Food and Drug Administration approval would expand that practice and could make the highly expensive medicine more affordable. Truvada costs around $11,000 to $14,000 a year.
Approval seems likely after an FDA advisory panel Thursday endorsed the use of Truvada for prevention.
In the generation-long fight against AIDS, “it’s the first time we have talked about a medication for prevention of HIV,” said Dr. Lisa Sterman of Francisco, who treats HIV-positive patients.
“With this recommendation, we’re nearing a watershed moment in our fight against HIV,” said James Loduca, a spokesman for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “We know this isn’t a magic bullet, and it’s not going to be the right prevention strategy for everyone, but it could save thousands of lives in the United States and potentially millions around the world.”
A pill that has long been used to treat HIV has moved one step closer to becoming the first drug approved to prevent healthy people from becoming infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that Gilead Sciences’ Truvada appears to be safe and effective for HIV prevention. It concluded that taking the pill daily could spare patients “infection with a serious and life-threatening illness that requires lifelong treatment.”
On Thursday a panel of FDA advisers will consider the review when it votes on whether Truvada should be approved as a preventative treatment for people who are at high risk of contracting HIV through sexual intercourse. The FDA is not required to follow the advice of its panels, but it usually does.
An estimated 1.2 million Americans have HIV, which attacks the immune system and, unless treated with antiviral drugs, develops into AIDS, a fatal condition in which the body cannot fight off infections. If Truvada is approved, it would be a major breakthrough in the 30-year campaign against the AIDS epidemic. There have been no other drugs proven to prevent HIV and a vaccine is believed to be decades away.