A syringe against AIDS?

The era of AIDS began officially on Juny 5th, 1981. The first recognised cases of AIDS occurred in the USA. A number of gay men in New York and California suddenly began to develop rare opportunistic infections and cancers that seemed stubbornly resistant to any treatment. At this time, AIDS did not yet have a name, but it quickly became obvious that all the men were suffering from a common syndrome.

This disease is characterized by a T CD4 cell recount less than 200 cells per cubic milliliter of blood. T CD4 are the cells which start the waterfall of immune response through the interaction with a complex from a gene family located in the short arm of chromosome 6. In this condition, the immune system is seriously deteriorated, so that the patient is exposed to various pathological processes generated by a set of opportunistic infections.

This virus affects to all kinds of people although initially it was thought that could only affect to homosexual, immigrants and people who received blood transfusion, this was because firsts cases was in this group of people because certain body fluids; blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vagina fluids and breast milk, from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. These body fluids must come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (by a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur.

Nowadays there are about 35 million people worldwide.

From lifemanagementonline. http://www.lifemanagementonline.com/health-info/statistics/hiv-aids-life-expectancy-spain.php. This graphic shows the death rate in Spain from 1990 until 2009. By 1990, Spain had already placed as the European country most affected by HIV because in a few years the virus spread, especially in heroin addicts. The worst year in Spain was 1995 when, according to the Spanish Nacional Institute of Statistic, 5857 died of AIDS, mostly men. Then we can see a large decrease (over 4 000) due to the development and access of patients to treatments. This great improvement is also related to awareness of the forms of prevention. Until 2010, there have been 54 246 deaths related to AIDS.The research shown that CTLs (cytotoxic T cell) can’t find every infected cells, because viral reservoirs of chronically infected individuals let HIV to escape detection by them. The explanation of why these viruses evade detection by these cells is that the part of one of the proteins mutate in a way that CTLs can’t recognize them.

But, how does the virus work?

In 1987, a drug called azidotimidine became the first approved treatment for HIV disease. Since then, approximately 30 drugs have been approved to treat people living with HIV. But any of these could heal the virus, only make it a chronic disease. But it could change earlier than we think because one of the latest research have shown that we may be close to find and destroy the lingering supply of the virus. Yale and Johns Hopkings University researches, explored if they can make the killer “T cells” destroy the cells which carry the latent virus.

The research shown that CTLs (cytotoxic T cell) can’t find every infected cells, because viral reservoirs of chronically infected individuals let HIV to escape detection by them. The explanation of why these viruses evade detection by these cells is that the part of one of the proteins mutate in a way that CTLs can’t recognize them.

The method for finding it was divided 25 patients in two groups, first one with 10 patients who had started with the treatment within first three months of infection; and second one with 15 patients who had been infected chronically before receiving treatment. More or less a 98% of patients who had been infected chronically before taken the drugs carried these “escape mutations”. After this research Liang Shan said “These results help explain why none of the current vaccines can clear HIV from the body.”

Nevertheless, they also discovered that not every virus had altered, so this made researchers think about the possibility of make the immunological system find this small segments and destroy the infected cell. They started the process by chronically infected patients, identifying CTLs that could recognize epitopes, part of an antigen that is recognized by the immune system, from latent HIV. After a few days, they exposed killer cells to isolated VIH infected cells of patients who were carrying escape mutants. The fact that the cells with the mix of proteins were able to destroy non-mutated parts meant the destruction of a sixty one per cent of infected cells. The percentage of destroyed cells in non-mutated proteins of HIV were only a 23%.

After doing this research on a dish they infected physiologically modified mice. The results made researches think about the possibility use this technique for find a vaccine for HIV, but, what did they found? They discovered that mice which had killer cells trained by the mix of HIV proteins could control de infection and some even finish with it.

This is not the only idea, there are people who follow other streams. Recently, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Investigation Centre for the AIDS of Rockefeller University have demonstrated the protector effect of GSK,from a pharmaceutical multinational, against one of the most commons ways of transmission: vaginal infection by HIV.

In the CDC research they vaccinated female monkeys every month of GSK744. Then twice a week researchers introduced in monkey’s vagina fluid with SIV (Simian immunodeficiency virus) simulating sexual relations with a infected male. None of them contracted the disease, but six female monkeys of other control group which had been treated with placebo got ill.

This results doesn’t mean a cure for HIV, but the treatment might reduce the spread of the disease, and the study can be read as a critique for the first research.



Personal opinion:

I think that develop a drug based on the results of this research will be complicated but I hope with time and lots of hours working it would be possible, because if it is possible in mice, why it would not be possible in humans?  If we can find how to cure it we would not only reduce the people with the disease, we would also save millions of euros because the treatment that is used nowadays is lifetime, but although nowadays is not likely to die due to AIDS we should aware about the methods of prevention the spread, which are really easy. I chose this article because I thought it was a really known illness with lots of people interested in it and also one of my favorite singer died due to HIV.

Original source:

Differences are so clear, in the article I did not know lots of words and I had to look for them, sometimes without being successful. The reason of the difficulty in the language is that the original source is written for people with more knowledges about the disease. In the disclosure article they try to make us think that the development for a drug which cures the illness is really likely and the original source only explains the process.

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3 Responses to A syringe against AIDS?

  1. Congratulations!, you’ve done a great work in a complex subject, with plenty of introductory information on the AIDS background. Maybe too monographic to fit in this blog (are your schoolmates in condition to read and understand this?).

    You’ve used several sources, and I’m not sure about the origin of some data you mentioned. Did you examined the original paper from Nature? It’s avaliable here; in its “Methods” section can be read:
    Human subjects. Peripheral blood or bone marrow for the isolation of primary CD41,CD81T cells or CD341cells was obtained from 30 HIV-1-infected patients (Extended Data Table 1) and 7 healthy adult volunteers. All patients had been on ART for at least 2 years and had maintained undetectable plasma HIV-1 RNA levels (,50 copies per ml) for at least 1 year before study. Ten AP-treated patients were recruited from the OPTIONS cohort at the University of California San Francisco.”
    Indeed, you can count 30 patients in the Table 1. So where you information on methods come from?

    • Paula Pais Rodríguez di:

      I don’t know why there are 30 patients in that table but in this link http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7534/full/nature14053.html in Extended Data Figures, in the first point the authors says “Results of all 25 patients tested are shown.”. I have red the original of nature and I don’t know exactly whether I should add anything else. I found some data online when I could not understand some complicated works. Thank you for the correction.

      • Yes, but the caption in the second figure says “Results of seven patients tested are shown”. Don’t worry, it was just a minor detail which drew may attention,
        You don’t have to correct or add anything, you already had the highest mark!

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