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Best Scientific Breakthroughs for HIV/AIDS in 2017

Wednesday Dec 27, 2017

Across the globe, scientists struggled in the lab and in the field to identify advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Researchers are closing in on ways to kick dormant HIV out of the viral reservoir so that medications can kill it. They've found better ways to test for HIV and better ways to track it. They're looking to new CRSPR technology as a possible way end HIV via gene editing. And after many years, they're finally finding some success in crafting a vaccine. Doctors have identified drugs to fight HIV, and are using some, like Truvada, to prevent high-risk people from contracting it to begin with. Here are the top 20 scientific breakthroughs in HIV research in 2017.

  • Duke Develops More Accurate Tool to Track New HIV Infections
    Researchers at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute have led an effort to develop a more accurate way to gauge the incidence of HIV infections in large populations, which will improve research and prevention strategies worldwide.

    The new method more correctly identifies new vs. long-standing infections -- an important distinction for determining where to target public health measures and research, and for evaluating whether interventions are successful at reducing HIV transmission.

    To read more, click here.

  • Researchers Develop New Models for Speeding Up HIV Testing
    Researchers have developed new quantitative management models that could save the lives of thousands of early infants in Africa by improving the efficiency of laboratory test procedures now used to diagnose whether children were born with the deadly HIV virus.

    To read more, click here.

  • Researchers May Have Found a Way To 'Kick and Kill' HIV
    Current anti-AIDS drugs are highly effective at controlling viral loads, but the medications, known as antiretroviral therapy, do not rid the body of the virus, which has the ability to hide out and lay dormant in CD4+ T cells, or reservoirs, thus eluding medications. When a person goes off treatment, the virus emerges and replicates in the body, weakening the immune system and raising the likelihood of opportunistic infections or cancers that can sicken or kill the patient.

    Researchers have been looking for ways to eliminate these viral reservoirs. One potential approach is "kick and kill," in which an agent "wakes up" the dormant virus, causing it to begin replicating so viral proteins on the infected cell can then be targeted to kill it. Destruction of all these reservoir cells could reduce or eradicate HIV entirely.

    Now, a team of researchers from the UCLA Center for AIDS Research, Stanford University and the National Institutes of Health may have developed a synthetic molecule that both "kicks" and "kills."

    To read more, click here.

  • Study Reveals New Method to Address Barrier in HIV Eradication
    Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes discovered that an enzyme called SMYD2 could be a new therapeutic target for flushing out the HIV that hides in infected individuals. Overcoming this latent virus remains the most significant obstacle to a cure.

    To read more, click here.

  • Rare Case of 9-Year-Old in HIV Remission for Years, Without Drugs
    A nine-year-old South African child diagnosed with HIV at a month old has been living with HIV in remission for his whole life, without regular medication. This is the first reported case of a child living with HIV in Africa without drugs, and only the third case globally.

    Shortly after the child was born, it was placed on antiretroviral treatment for 40 weeks, then taken off. Blood tests in 2015 showed that the child was in remission, with an undetectable viral load. And when doctors tested samples from the child's infancy, they discovered that this remission was achieved soon after treatment was stopped.

    Apparently, the early treatment was part of a larger research trial to investigate the potential of ART to decrease infant mortality and reduce the need for lifelong treatment.

    To read more, click here.

  • Researchers in Malawi Study Impact of HIV Exposure During Pregnancy on Infant Immune Development
    The University of Maryland School of Medicine's (UM SOM) Institute for Global Health (IGH) and the Institute for Human Virology (IHV) have been awarded a $2 million five-year grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study the impact exposure to HIV has on the immune systems of infants in utero and how those changes impact the ability of infants to fight off infections after birth.

    The research will be conducted at the IGH's long-standing research site in Blantyre, Malawi and will follow pregnant women during pregnancy until the infants reach nine months of age. Research will be conducted at the Blantyre Malaria Project (BMP) Research Clinic in the Ndirande Health Centre, which is an affiliate of the University of Malawi College of Medicine. UM SOM researchers have been conducting clinical studies among pregnant women and others living with HIV at this location since 1998.

    To read more, click here.

  • Temple Uses Gene Editing to Eliminate HIV Infection in Mice
    A recent article out of Philadelphia reports that researchers at Temple University had found success using a gene-editing technique to snip out HIV DNA from the genetic code of mice. The findings bolster the hope for an eventual cure for HIV.

    The findings are the result of several years of Temple University experiments that initially showed the AIDS virus could be cut from cells in the lab.

    To read more, click here.

  • Second Immune Cell Found to Harbor HIV During Treatment
    The challenge of finding a cure for AIDS may have gotten harder. In a new article reposted with permission from VOA News, scientists have discovered another cell in the body where HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- hides from therapy designed to suppress it to undetectable levels in the blood.

    The cells -- called macrophages -- are part of the immune system and are found throughout the body, including in the liver, lungs, bone marrow and brain. After other immune cells have done their job of destroying foreign invaders, these large white blood cells act as the cleanup crew. They surround and clean up cellular debris, foreign substances, cancer cells and anything else that is not essential to the functioning of healthy cells. In addition, they apparently can harbor HIV.

    While antiretroviral drugs can drive the AIDS virus down to virtually undetectable levels, scientists know if therapy is interrupted, an HIV infection can come roaring back. That's because of a viral reservoir that until now has been thought only to inhabit immune system T-cells -- the cells that are attacked and destroyed by the AIDS virus. Much research is dedicated to trying to find ways to eradicate the T-cell reservoir.

    This may mean researchers must find ways to eliminate HIV from macrophages, as well.

    To read more, click here.

  • ABIVAX Presents New Data on ABX196 at World Vaccine Congress
    ABIVAX is an innovative biotechnology company targeting the immune system to eliminate viral and inflammatory diseases as well as cancer using its unique technology platforms.

    In her presentation, "ABX196, a promising iNKT agonist to enhance therapeutic efficacy in oncology" Dr. Crabe presented the ability of ABX196, an agonist of invariant Natural Killer T (iNKT) cells and Abivax's lead development compound in cancer, to successfully block the growth of hepatocellular cancer (HCC) and to increase survival in a preclinical model.

    To read more, click here

  • HIV-Positive Women with CMV Likelier to Pass AIDS Virus to Infants
    HIV-positive women with cytomegalovirus, or CMV, in their urine at the time of labor and delivery are more than five times likelier than HIV-positive women without CMV to transmit HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to their infants, according to a UCLA-led study.

    The research also found that they are nearly 30 times likelier to transmit cytomegalovirus to their infants.

    To read more, click here.

  • HIV Prevention Trials Hold Promise for Women
    Just ahead of another World AIDS Day, two new efficacy trials officially launched in Africa today with the potential of additional HIV prevention methods in the future.

    The two trials -- one studying a new vaccine strategy from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson that could protect against multiple strains of HIV and the other with an injectable antiretroviral PrEP strategy every two months from ViiV/GSK -- join five other efficacy trials that are hoped to expand the options available to meet the varied needs women and men have for HIV prevention over the course of their lives.

    To read more, click here.

  • Johnson & Johnson Announces Encouraging First-in-Human Clinical Data for Investigational HIV Preventive Vaccine
    Johnson & Johnson announced encouraging first-in-human clinical data for an investigational HIV-1 vaccine regimen in development at its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies. In an oral presentation of the early stage Phase 1/2a APPROACH study at the 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2017), the "mosaic"-based vaccine regimen from Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. (Janssen) appeared to be well-tolerated and elicited HIV-1 antibody responses in 100 percent of healthy volunteers (n=393).

    "Finding a preventive vaccine has proven to be one of the biggest scientific challenges in the 35-year quest to end the HIV pandemic. A successful preventive vaccine for HIV will need to provide broad protection against a wide range of viral strains," said Professor Dan Barouch, Harvard Medical School, Director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a key collaborator for APPROACH. "These promising, early-stage results suggest that these vaccines utilizing mosaic immunogens should be evaluated further for their potential ability to achieve this historic goal."

    To read more, click here.

  • For Cancer Patients With HIV, Immunotherapy Appears Safe
    Cancer has become the leading cause of death for people with HIV. But until now, they and their physicians have had little data to guide them on whether they can safely use powerful new anti-cancer drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors.

    A new category of immunotherapies called checkpoint inhibitors that has been highly effective against many different cancers appears safe to use in patients with both advanced malignancies and HIV, a population excluded from earlier trials of such therapies, according to an early-phase trial.

    To read more, click here.

  • REPRIEVE Launches Sub-Study on HIV Heart Health
    Back in 2015, EDGE reported on a National Institutes of Health study prompted by research revealing that people with HIV were 50 to 100 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, including myocardial infarctions and strokes.

    Over the past two years, REPRIEVE, a Randomized Trial to Prevent Vascular Events in HIV, has grown tremendously. They now have about 2,800 participants and have launched sites throughout the U.S., Canada, South Africa, and Brazil to study the connection between HIV and cardiovascular disease, and to test whether the drug pitavastatin will help reduce heart-related disease in people with HIV.

    "It's going really well," said Katie Fitch, MSN, FNP, Project Manager of REPRIEVE. "We have 107 clinical sites and our demographics are about 31 percent female. We are really pleased with that."

    To read more, click here.

  • PrEP Found to Be Safe For Gay, Bisexual Adolescent Boys
    A pill that protects people from contracting HIV can now be safely prescribed and used by young men who have sex with men. A recent report by Reuters Health reports that a new study found that pre-exposure phrophylaxis (PrEP) in the form of a pill like Truvada, which combines emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate was well-tolerated among adolescents.

    "I do hope clinicians increase their comfort with being able to provide PrEP to adolescents," said lead author Sybil Hosek, a clinical psychologist and HIV researcher at Cook County Health and Hospitals System's Stroger Hospital in Chicago. Hosek hoped the new data will be submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who would approve the pill for use by younger people for HIV prevention, as it is for adults.

    To read more, click here.

  • More Than 50 Medicines and Vaccines in Development for HIV Infection, Treatment and Prevention
    America's biopharmaceutical companies are continuing the fight to conquer the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can develop into acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), with 52 medicines and vaccines currently in development to help treat and prevent the infection, according to a report released by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in partnership with The AIDS Institute.

    Over the past three decades, continued biopharmaceutical innovation in HIV/AIDS treatment -- from the discovery of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) in the mid-1990's to the introduction of medicines to prevent the transmission of HIV, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) -- has revolutionized the outlook and improved the quality of life for the 1.1 million patients in the United States with HIV.

    To read more, click here.

  • Researchers Develop 'Three-In-One' Antibodies as Potential Intervention for HIV/AIDS
    In a landmark study published in the journal Science, researchers produced genetically engineered antibodies with the highest activity and breadth of coverage yet seen against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1).

    Natural antibodies recognize a single target on a foreign protein. In this study, antibodies were engineered to recognize three different target sites in one molecule. These HIV "trispecific" antibodies were highly effective in suppressing virus growth and infection.

    To read more, click here.

  • We Can't End AIDS Without Ending the Epidemic in the Rural Deep South
    A first-of-its-kind report draws sharp contrasts between at-risk signifiers and HIV/AIDS indicators, such as care and services for HIV/AIDS in rural Louisiana vs. New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

    Louisiana ranks first in the U.S. in new HIV infections, with 15% of those living in rural areas. Yet this report reveals metropolitan solutions for HIV/AIDS are not making a difference in rural Louisiana. It is a first step toward identifying rural-appropriate solutions for people living with HIV/AIDS in this critical region and has implications for HIV/AIDS prevention and care throughout the deep South.

    To read more, click here.

  • New HIV Infections Drop 18 Percent In Six Years
    The number of annual HIV infections in the United States fell 18 percent between 2008 and 2014 -- from an estimated 45,700 to 37,600 -- according to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle. Progress, however, was not the same among all populations or areas of the country.

    "The nation's new high-impact approach to HIV prevention is working. We have the tools, and we are using them to bring us closer to a future free of HIV," said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. "These data reflect the success of collective prevention and treatment efforts at national, state and local levels. We must ensure the interventions that work reach those who need them most."

    To read more, click here.

  • Life Expectancy For HIV Patients Has Increased By 10 Years In U.S. And Europe
    Life expectancy for 20-year-olds initiating treatment for HIV has increased by about a decade in the European Union and North America since the introduction of antiretroviral therapy in the mid-1990s, according to a study co-authored by Yale researcher Dr. Amy Justice and published in The Lancet HIV. The increases are among treated individuals compared with untreated individuals, the global team of researchers said.

    To read more, click here.


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