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Finding an effective vaccine for HIV has always been an uphill battle for researchers and scientists around the world. Even discovering methods for anti-HIV strategies once a patient is infected has been far from easy.
Fortunately recent advancements in research on the disease are showing otherwise.
A few studies published in the journals mBio and PLOS Pathogens have provided some hope for HIV patients with their victories in antiretroviral therapy and investigations for a functional vaccination.
Because interruption of current antiretroviral therapy results in virus rebound and progression to AIDS, HIV-infected patients typically keep up with the treatment for life.
But now scientists from the Florida campus of the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered there is a solution to this problem.
Their new study, published in the journal mBio, shows a natural compound called Cortistatin A prevents HIV-infected cells from replicating by reducing levels of viral messenger RNA, which is a blueprint for more infection.
“In our proposed model, didehydro-Cortistatin A inhibits the viral transcriptional activator, Tat, far more completely, delaying or even halting viral replication, reactivation and replenishment of the latent viral reservoir,” said Susana Valente, a TSRI associate professor who led the study.
This compound establishes a near-permanent state of latency and greatly decreases the virus’ ability to reactivate. Results from the study highlight an alternative to a widely known anti-HIV strategy known as “kick and kill.”
Although an official vaccination that protects against HIV has yet to be made, two studies published in PLOS Pathogens shed light on the role of neutralized antibodies (Nabs) in helping prevent the virus from spreading.
Nabs are immune proteins that can trigger the elimination of a virus before it causes chronic infection. In a study last year, researchers had already discovered how to create them in those infected with HIV-1.
Results from 21 women showed Nabs mount a potent response against various HIV sub-types.
The second study published under Dr. Alexandra Trkola, of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and her colleagues focused on the effect of Nabs in those infected with HIV/AIDS by cell-to-cell contact.
While there was a decrease in activity for the Nabs, losses varied based on virus strain and antibody. In addition, some Nabs retained activity and inhibited the virus prior to binding to the CD4 receptor on T cells.
Trkola and her team displayed that cell-to-cell transmission makes the virus far more prone to mutation strains that can escape immune control.
With the help of studies like these and the continuation of advancements in science, there may one day be a cure for HIV/AIDS. Although HIV incidence remains around 50,000 new infections per year, every day is a step in the right direction.
Photo sources: Scribbs.com, MedicalNewsToday.com, TimesOfMalta.com.