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Scientists make significant progress in search for HIV cure


Scientists. Image source timeshighereducation

Scientists. Image source timeshighereducation

SCIENTISTS have advanced search for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) cure with the establishment of a centre dedicated to finding a way to eradicate the disease once and for all by global pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, United States.

Also, experts have warned that antibiotic-resistant typhoid is spreading across Africa and Asia and poses a major global health threat even as the World Health Organization (WHO) has made recommendations for naming new diseases, saying the name given to a particular disease can have a direct effect on people’s lives and livelihoods.

GSK and UNC, in a joint statement, said one major focus of the new collaboration will be the ‘shock and kill’ approach for curing HIV, which involves unmasking dormant HIV present in patients’ immune cells, before boosting the immune system to destroy all traces of the virus.

They said the new centre, due to be located at UNC-Chapel Hill campus, will consist of a small team of researchers from GSK, who will work with their UNC-Chapel Hill counterparts, to discover a cure for HIV/AIDS.

The new collaboration aims to advance recent scientific means, including the ‘shock and kill’ approach, in curing the virus.

The new approach has become a major focus in the treatment of HIV. Only last week, Medical News Today reported on a study in which researchers identified a molecule that they believe could be used as part of a “shock and kill” treatment strategy for the virus.

The researchers, from the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) Research Centre in Canada, revealed how a molecule called JP-III-48 acts as a “can opener,” forcing the HIV virus to open up and expose its weaknesses, allowing it to be attacked by the immune system.

A team of researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill was one of the first to identify the “shock and kill” approach, and it is hoped the collaboration with GSK could move it forward.

Meanwhile, researchers from the Wellcome Trust who have been tracking the hard-to-treat infection, in a study published in Nature Genetics, said the drug-resistant typhoid is replacing regular strain in many countries.

They analysed bacterial samples from 63 countries – nearly half were impervious to standard antibiotic treatments and blamed over-reliance on these drugs for the growing resistance.

Increasingly, doctors now need to use other, more expensive and less readily available antibiotics to treat typhoid fever – a disease that kills around 200,000 people every year.

The Wellcome Trust work is the largest snapshot of what is happening globally to typhoid resistance. It shows the problem is widespread.

In many parts of Asia and Africa, where typhoid is endemic, a multidrug-resistant strain of typhoid called H58 has displaced other typhoid strains that have been around for centuries. Of the 63 countries the researchers looked at, 21 had H58.

One of the study authors, Dr. Kathryn Holt, from the University of Melbourne, said H58 was gaining a firm foothold. Holt explained: “Multidrug-resistant typhoid has been coming and going since the 1970s and is caused by the bacteria picking up novel antimicrobial resistance genes, which are usually lost when we switch to a new drug.

“In H58, these genes are becoming a stable part of the genome, which means multiple-antibiotic resistant typhoid is here to stay’.




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