The Latest in AIDS Research: Pills, Gels, and a Big Step Towards a Cure

By Melissa Lafsky | August 5, 2008 1:12 pm

microscopeThere’s lots of buzz in the world of AIDS research this week, with the XVII International Conference on AIDS getting ready to kick off in Mexico City. Robert Siliciano, an HIV expert at Johns Hopkins, has found that current antiretroviral drugs have stopped HIV from replicating, the first of three steps needed to cure the virus. Some drug combinations have even squashed the viral cells’ ability to copy themselves to less than one time in a billion. So if the virus can’t spread, what’s left to cure? According to Siliciano’s prior research, HIV hides in reservoirs throughout the body, where it can live without replicating. Curing HIV means finding all of those reservoirs, and then finding a way to eliminate them.

Anti-transmission technologies are also seeing some success in the lab. At St. George’s University of London, a team of researchers led by Martin Cranage has been testing a rectal gel on macaques infected with SIV (the monkey version of the AIDS virus). They found that the gel, which contains the HIV drug tenofovir, partially or totally protected most of the uninfected monkeys from transmission.

Meanwhile, initial trials are already underway for an H.I.V. prevention pill, which would use one or more antiretroviral drugs—including tenofovir—to create a “pre-exposure prophylaxis” that would inhibit infection. The New York Times reports that as many as 15,000 people are expected to be participating in drug trials by mid-2009. Funding is coming straight from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the C.D.C., and N.I.H., as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

And now for the very bad news: Due to consistent underreporting, the infection rate in the U.S. is actually 40 percent higher than previously estimated. In other words, while the C.D.C. reported around 40,000 new infections in 2006, the actual number was more like 56,300, 53 percent of which were gay and bisexual men. The C.D.C. has known about its error since last October, but refused to release the new numbers until they were “published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.” Maybe they figured bad news sounds better coming from someplace else.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Biotech, Health Care
MORE ABOUT: AIDS, HIV

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  1. Raven

    I haven’t noticed anything in the news concerning another line of research that appears to be effective.

    http://www.kvue.com/news/state/stories/072908kvuehivbreakthrough-cb.14e217f8.html

    Maybe they were being over optimistic but they were more than sure this was a potential cure.

  2. RICK BADMAN

    AIDS is a disease in which we know how it is spread. But people that know better still do the actions that infect them. It’s as if they are children that are told by their parents to not play with matches because they could burn themselves and they go ahead and play with matches and burn themselves. Since old-fashioned immoral behaviour often spreads the disease and people like to be immoral, the disease will continue to spread. But as I’ve pointed out, people know how the disease is spread, yet they do what it takes to spread the disease. It may not be fun to be celibate. But it is safer than exposing one’s self to the AIDS virus.

    As for the cures for AIDS, many of the possible cures have been known about for over 20 years. If the virus is detected early enough, it may be as simple as having dialysis flush the virus out of the bloodstream. Biosynthetic antibodies might be programmed to hunt the virus down, detect the incomplete DNA of the virus, and destroy it. Genetic overloading may be another treatment to make the virus unable to replicate. Molecular division of the virus or the genetic structure of the virus may make it harmless. And encapsulation of infected tissue for removal out of the body may be effective. With nanotechnology coming into its own, microscopic devices may become the cellular assassins that will detect the virus and destroy it. Some of the treatments for AIDS will be used to combat cancers too. I wish that research in the areas could have started during the 80′s when I was talking about it and almost got a chance to talk about it on live nationwide TV in the NBC studios. But someone hogged the time and didn’t allow me to mention possible cures for AIDS, cancer, and paralysis. There’s no telling how many millions might have been saved had the man not taken up all the time saying not much of anything of importance.

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  4. Sharee A.

    I hope these new aids experiments can really help cure and prevent aids from spreading. To many people are dying from aids when they may not be the reason for themm getting the disease.

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