On Wednesday, the journal Nature published news of a highly promising development in HIV/AIDS prevention and cure. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have developed an HIV/AIDS vaccine.
Tests with a non-human primate form of HIV (simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, which causes AIDS in monkeys) successfully cleared the virus from over half of a group of rhesus macaques infected with a highly pathogenic strain.
Previously, the team reported, even the most effective immune responses and antiviral therapies could only control, but not clear, HIV/AIDS infections. Science Daily quotes Dr. Louis Picker, associate director of the OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and a key author of the study:
"HIV infection has only been cured in a very small number of highly publicized but unusual clinical cases in which HIV-infected individuals were treated with antiviral medicines very early after the onset of infection or received a stem cell transplant to combat cancer. This latest research suggests that certain immune responses elicited by a new vaccine may also have the ability to completely remove HIV from the body."
The new research involved pairing a modified cytomegalovirus, or CMV, commonly carried by much of the population, with SIV. The modified CMV generated and indefinitely maintained T-cells capable of searching out and destroying SIV-infected cells. The lab is currently looking at the uncured subjects for clues about why the antivirus did not affect them similarly. In future, physicians may be able to use a human version of the vaccine to cure HIV/AIDS in millions of infected individuals.
Several grants from the National Institutes of Health, funding from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and a CAVD grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the research.
Earlier this year, Harvard-affiliated researchers found that that two bone-marrow transplant patients who stopped anti-retroviral therapy two to four months ago still show no detectable sign of the HIV virus. In March, Johns Hopkins virologist Deborah Persaud cured a baby of an HIV infection by treating her aggressively with antiretroviral drugs from about a day after birth.
On behalf of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Dr. Virginia Moyer published guidelines in the July 2 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine suggesting that pregnant women, even those in labor, and all others 15 to 65 years old be screened for HIV. Younger adolescents and older adults who are at increased risk should also be screened.
Based in Chicago, Sandy Dechert has been covering science and health for Examiner.com since the webzine's official startup. In the health area, she began investigating MERS before the disease was officially named and H7N9 human influenza on the day the Chinese announced it. She has also followed American seasonal influenza and the creation, enactment, and progress of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Sandy's science articles appear frequently in Examiner's women's and sexual health columns and under environment and energy, as well as elsewhere in the digital world.
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