Category Archives: Research

Researchers receive NIH grant to develop low cost, rapid HIV test

From eurekalert.org

Currently, there is no reliable technology that can detect HIV during the early stages of the infection or measure viral rebound in antiretroviral therapy in treated patients in resource constrained point-of-care settings. There is therefore, an urgent need to develop a rapid, disposable, automated, and low-cost HIV viral load assay to increase timely access to HIV care and to improve treatment outcomes.

WASEEM ASGHAR, PH.D., PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

That’s exactly what a researcher from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science is developing. He has teamed up with a researcher from FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine to combine their expertise in microchip fabrication, microfluidics, surface functionalization, lensless imaging, and biosensing to create a reliable, rapid and inexpensive device for viral load quantification at point-of-care settings with limited resources.

They have received a $377,971 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a disposable HIV-1 viral load microchip that can selectively capture HIV from whole blood/plasma. The technology is being developed to be highly sensitive to quantify clinically relevant viral load during acute phase and virus rebound as well as inexpensive (costing less than $1), and quick (results in less than 45 minutes). Moreover, this technology is highly stable, and does not require refrigeration or a regular electric supply to enable HIV viral load at point-of-care settings.

Read the full article.

Once a month HIV drugs on the horizon

From MedicalExpress.com

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38,000 people in the U.S. were newly infected with HIV in 2017. For more than 15 years, the first line of therapy has been a suite of antiretroviral drugs in pill form, taken once a day. Although this treatment has transformed HIV from a certain killer to a chronic disease in much of the developed world, there are problems. For example, some people have trouble taking their pill every day. Therefore, pharmaceutical companies are developing injectable HIV drugs that target different components of the virus and can be administered once every few weeks, writes Senior Editor Megha Satyanarayana.

Currently, at least nine long-acting injectable therapies for HIV are in clinical development. Recently, ViiV Healthcare released data from two Phase III clinical trials of a combination treatment of two drugs that inhibit different parts of the virus. When given as an intramuscular injection, the therapy was as effective as pills and persisted in the body for at least a month.

Read the full article.

Research continues to show AIDS drugs prevent sexual transmission of HIV

A European study of nearly 1,000 gay male couples who had sex without condoms – where one partner had HIV and was taking antiretroviral drugs to suppress it – has found the treatment can prevent sexual transmission of the virus. After eight years of follow-up of the so-called serodifferent couples, the study found no cases at all of HIV transmission within couples.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University College London and the University of Copenhagen, was published in The Lancet journal.

New immunotherapy kills HIV: Pitt Men’s Study participants “vital to the success of this study”

From Pitt Health Sciences

In a first on the quest to cure HIV, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health scientists report today in EBioMedicine that they’ve developed an all-in-one immunotherapy approach that not only kicks HIV out of hiding in the immune system, but also kills it. The key lies in immune cells designed to recognize an entirely different virus.

The discovery, made in the laboratory using cells from people with HIV, is yet to be tested in clinical trials, but could lead to the development of a vaccine that would allow people positive for HIV to stop taking daily medications to keep the virus in check.

“A lot of scientists are trying to develop a cure for HIV, and it’s usually built around the ‘kick and kill’ concept – kick the virus out of hiding and then kill it,” said senior author Robbie Mailliard, Ph.D., assistant professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at Pitt Public Health. “There are some promising therapies being developed for the kill, but the Holy Grail is figuring out which cells are harboring HIV so we know what to kick.”

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) typically controls HIV infections so well that the virus is virtually undetectable in the blood and cannot easily infect other people. But if a person with HIV stops taking the daily regimen of medications, which come with many side-effects, the virus can rage back and turn into full-blown AIDS. This is because the virus goes into a latent, inactive phase where it incorporates itself into the DNA of certain immune cells called “T helper cells,” and lurks while a person is taking ART.

Mailliard and his team decided to look at a different virus that also goes latent and infects more than half of adults – and 95 percent of those with HIV: Cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can cause eye infections and other serious illnesses, but is usually controlled by a healthy immune system.

“The immune system spends a lot of time keeping CMV in check; in some people, 1 one out of every 5 T cells are specific to that one virus,” said co-author Charles Rinaldo, Ph.D., professor and chair of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology. “That got us thinking – maybe those cells that are specific to fighting CMV also make up a large part of the latent HIV reservoir. So we engineered our immunotherapy to not only target HIV, but to also activate CMV-specific T helper cells.”

To run the experiment, the team needed blood – and lots of it – from people with HIV controlled by ART. Nearly two dozen participants stepped up from the Pitt Men’s Study, the Pittsburgh  site of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), a research study of the natural history of treated and untreated HIV/AIDS in men who have sex with men.

“The MACS participants were vital to the success of this study,” said first author Jan Kristoff, M.S., a doctoral candidate at Pitt Public Health. “You have to collect a lot of blood to find T cells latently infected with functional HIV in people on ART – it could be as few as 1 out of every 10 million cells. So the men would sit for as long as four hours hooked up to a machine that processed their blood and came back multiple times to give more samples.”

Read more on the UPMC Website.

 

Fighting HIV: Gaps in treatment, testing drive new infections

From Modernhealth.com

An estimated 80% of the nearly 40,000 new HIV infections that occurred in the U.S. in 2016 were transmitted from those who either did not know their diagnosis or were not receiving regular care to maintain their virus at nearly non-transmissible levels, according to health officials.

In a new report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday highlighted the gaps in access to treatment and testing resources that exists within the HIV care continuum. Those gaps have led to a halt in recent years to the progress made over the past two decades in reducing HIV infections.

An estimated 15% of people with HIV don’t know they have the virus, and that population accounted for 38% of all new infection, according to the study. Those who know their HIV status but are not receiving care make up 20% of people living with the virus but account for 43% of new infections.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the epidemic could end over the next few years by expanding access to testing and consistent treatment.

Read the full article.

NIAID review: HIV undetectable = untransmittable

From Gay Star News

HIV positive people with an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV. That’s the unequivocal conclusion from one of the leading health agencies in the US.

Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) undertook a review of recent research. Their conclusion is simple: Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U). It’s the same message now backed by over 300 health agencies all around the world.

The results of the NIAID review were published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). One of the reports co-authors is NIAID Director, Dr Anthony Fauci. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading HIV experts.

In a statement, NIAID called evidence for Undetectable = Untransmittable ‘overwhelming’. Not only does getting those diagnosed with HIV on to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) ensure their long term health. But it also significantly reduces HIV transmission rates. This is because those with the virus suppressed in their body cannot pass it on.

The authors pointed to research that looked at over 77,000 examples of condomless sex between serodiscordant male couples. One half of the couple had HIV and the other did not. There was not a single transmission of the virus from the HIV positive person to the negative person.

Read the full article.

HIV strikes Black gay men more, despite safer behaviors

“Our study illuminates how HIV disparities emerge from complex social and sexual networks and inequalities in access to medical care for those who are HIV-positive,” said senior study author Brian Mustanski. He is director of the Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Their social and sexual networks are more dense and interconnected, which from an infectious disease standpoint makes infections transmitted more efficiently through the group,” Mustanski explained in a university news release.

“That, coupled with the higher HIV prevalence in the population, means any sexual act has a higher chance of HIV transmission,” he added.

If this trend continues, 1 out of every 2 black gay men will become infected with HIV at some point in life, compared to 1 in 5 Hispanic gay men and 1 in 11 white gay men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 1,000 gay men, aged 16 to 29, in Chicago.

Among their other findings: black gay men were less likely to have close relationships with their sexual partners, more likely to have hazardous marijuana use, and more likely to have experienced more stigma, trauma and childhood sexual abuse. White gay men were more likely to have alcohol problems.

The study was published Dec. 4 in the Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes.

For more information, check out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.