From 1 October, NSW residents living with HIV and hepatitis C will pay less for their medication under a government plan to scrap co-payments on S100 medicines (highly specialised drugs).
Read more ...
Via press release tonight, the White House announced tonight that the National Institutes of Health have found a way to treat HIV patients without drugs.
Here's the simple breakdown: Through gene therapy, scientists extracted white blood cells, modified them to disable the CCR5 cell surface which allows HIV to infect the cells, stimulated the cells to multiply and then returned the cells via infusion to the patient.
Subsequently, HIV replication was kept under control for a 12 week period.
Pablo Tebas, an infectious disease physician at the University of Pennsylvania and study co-author of the study, says "We did not cure anybody with HIV." But, he continued, we now know that we "can make the cells of each individual resistant to HIV."
Here's the full press release:
Scientists today report initial results from humans on the safety and tolerability of a novel strategy to curb HIV disease by removing key cells from HIV-infected individuals, genetically modifying the cells to resist HIV infection and returning them to those people. The basic and pre-clinical research on this strategy, which eventually might help people control the virus without drugs, was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The Phase I clinical trial was funded by Sangamo BioSciences and was led by NIAID grantee Carl H. June, M.D., with co-investigators Bruce L. Levine, Ph.D., and Pablo Tebas, M.D., all of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
The trial built on the observation that people who naturally have a genetic modification in a protein called CCR5 are resistant to HIV infection, and when infected with HIV, progress to AIDS more slowly. CCR5 is a cell-surface molecule, or receptor, that most HIV variants must use to enter their primary target: the CD4+ T cell. In the trial, CD4+ T-cells were collected from each of 12 HIV-infected volunteers whose virus was controlled by anti-HIV therapy. These cells were then treated in the laboratory with molecular tools called zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs). The ZFNs were designed to snip the DNA within the gene that codes for the CCR5 receptor. This process introduced a genetic mutation rendering CCR5 receptors non-functional. Subsequently, the cells were stimulated to multiply, and each patient received an infusion of 10 billion of their own CD4+ T-cells, with roughly a fifth of the CCR5 genes now mutated.
Four weeks later, in a planned interruption of anti-HIV therapy, half the study participants stopped taking their antiretroviral drugs for 8 to 12 weeks. Investigators found that the experimental treatment was generally safe, and that the genetically modified cells appeared to be protected from HIV infection. In one volunteer who naturally had the desired mutation in half of his CCR5 genes, HIV replication was controlled during the entire 12-week treatment interruption. Future research will include evaluating this experimental treatment in more volunteers, as well as maximizing the frequency of CCR5 disruption by ZFNs and increasing the persistence of the genetically modified cells in the body to achieve a therapeutic effect.
A new disturbing trend is taking root in Africa, where Pentecostal pastors are inviting people infected with HIV to come forward for a public healing, after which they burn the person’s anti-retroviral medications and declare the person cured.
To make matters worse, some people say they have shelled out their life savings to receive the miracle “cure” and then stop taking their HIV medications.
“I believe people can be healed of all kinds of sickness, including HIV, through prayers,” said Pastor Joseph Maina of Agmo Prayer Mountain, a Pentecostal church on the outskirts of Nairobi. “We usually guide them. We don’t ask for money, but we ask them to leave some seed money that they please.”
But the controversial ceremonies are raising red flags as believers’ conditions worsen, and a debate has opened over whether science or religion should take the lead in the fight against the AIDS epidemic. The issue is not new for African societies that have grappled with similar matters, such as whether condoms can prevent transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.
Some 6.3 million people are receiving anti-retroviral drugs in hospitals and clinics across eastern and southern Africa. The prayer healings are especially worrisome because people who quit treatment may become resistant to the drugs.
“We (clergy) must demonstrate leadership in this area,” said Jane Ng’ang’a, who coordinates the Kenya chapter of INERELA+, an interfaith network of religious leaders living with HIV. “We should be in the forefront, encouraging adherence to the medicines, as we offer psychological and mental support to those infected and affected.”
Officials with INERELA+, an international organization, said that in Nairobi alone, an average of 10 people a month fall victim to such pastors. Countrywide, the organization has recorded 2,000 such cases. When their health worsens, people seek help restarting the medicines.
Margaret Lavonga attended a healing prayer service several years ago. She said she paid money for a prayer cure and nearly ended up dead after the pastor told her and others to stop taking their medicines.
“We were very desperate after realizing we had been infected as young women,” she said.
At the church, she was asked to pay the equivalent of $12 to be accepted for the healing ceremony and $24 at the end of the ceremony. The pastor then confiscated her drugs and those of four others and set them ablaze. The group was asked to undergo a test at a certain clinic in Nairobi, where they were all declared cured.
“We had joined him for crusades around Nairobi slums, telling the people how wonderful the pastor’s miracles were,” she added. “I was upbeat, but after two weeks I started falling sick. When I was tested, the virus was still in me and had multiplied since I was not taking the drugs.”
Four of those who had received the alleged prayer cure died within a month, according to Lavonga, who remains bitter that the government has not taken any action to stop the practice.
“The pastors should be in jail,” she said.
Roserita Nyawera, another victim in western Kenya, said the desperation among people living with HIV and their fear of stigma and family rejection make it easy for them to accept offers for a cure.
“When you are told there is an easier option, you want them (drugs) out of your life,” said Nyawera.
Via press release from the Radiological Society of North America:
Researchers have used radioimmunotherapy (RIT) to destroy remaining human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected cells in the blood samples of patients treated with antiretroviral therapy, offering the promise of a strategy for curing HIV infection.
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has transformed the outlook for patients infected with HIV by suppressing the replication of the virus in the body. However, despite the success of HAART in effectively reducing the burden of HIV, scientists believe reservoirs of latently infected cells persist in the body, preventing the possibility of a permanent cure.
In her study, Dr. Dadachova and a team of researchers administered RIT to blood samples from 15 HIV patients treated with HAART at the Einstein-Montefiore Center for AIDS Research.
RIT, which has historically been employed to treat cancer, uses monoclonal antibodies—cloned cells that are recruited by the immune system to identify and neutralize antigens. Antigens are foreign objects like bacteria and viruses that stimulate an immune response in the body. The antibody, designed to recognize and bind to a specific cell antigen, is paired with a radioactive isotope. When injected into the patient's bloodstream, the laboratory-developed antibody travels to the target cell where the radiation is then delivered.
"In RIT, the antibodies bind to the infected cells and kill them by radiation," Dr. Dadachova said. "When HAART and RIT are used together, they kill the virus and the infected cells, respectively."