Long-term results of the Breastfeeding, Antiretrovirals, and Nutrition (BAN) randomized trial reveals that breastfeeding for a longer period along (6+ months) with antiretroviral therapy (ART) could help reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission as well as improve chances of infant's survival. Children are not protected from HIV infection, however, if breastfeeding is stopped before 6 months, the risk of growth problems, illness and mortality is increased. In an associated comment, Louise Kuhn from Columbia University, New York, USA, and Hoosen Coovadia from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, write: "BAN re-emphasizes that breastfeeding is essential for infant survival and wellbeing. Early weaning is neither effective nor safe as an HIV prevention strategy.
Voluntary testing and counseling (VT/C) for HIV or sexually transmitted infections (STI) among cocaine and heroin users who were treated in the emergency department (ED), accompanied by referral to drug treatment, was associated with reduction in unprotected sex acts and fewer sex acts while high according to researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC). These findings currently appear on-line in Academic Emergency Medicine. In the United States, sexual risk behaviors are a greater source of HIV transmission than injection drug use. Although recent articles have focused on the opportunity for early HIV detection and treatment through an array of ED screening and testing strategies, the effect of VT/C and referral to drug treatment on the sexual behaviors of out-of-treatment drug users over time has not yet been reported.
Tall, with dark-green pointy leaves, the neem tree of India is known as the "village pharmacy." As a child growing up in metropolitan New Delhi, Sonia Arora recalls on visits to rural areas seeing villagers using neem bark to clean their teeth. Arora's childhood memories have developed into a scientific fascination with natural products and their power to cure illnesses. Now an assistant professor at Kean University in New Jersey, Arora is delving into understanding the curative properties of the neem tree in fighting the virus that causes AIDS. She presented her data at a poster sessio at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego. Her preliminary results seem to indicate that there are compounds in neem extracts that target a protein essential for HIV to replicate. If further studies support her findings, Arora's work may give clinicians and drug developers a new HIV-AIDS therapy to pursue.
GENE THERAPY: Inadvertent changes: how engineered viruses disrupt normal gene expression Gene therapy holds the promise of treating genetic conditions by restoring normal gene function. The field has developed slowly over the last several decades with high importance placed on safety to reduce the chance that introduced genes cause problems. Gene therapy often relies on engineered viruses that use viral machinery to deliver the desired gene product in cells. Two recent studies - led by Fulvio Mavilio of the Istituto Scientifico H. San Raffaele and Eugenio Montini at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy - examine how virus integration impacts gene expression with the hope of improving viral vectors used in gene therapy. When genes are expressed a primary mRNA transcript is spliced so that sequences that do not encode for protein are eliminated.
A new understanding of the initial interactions of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and dendritic cells is described by Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers in a study currently featured in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). With over 2.5 million new HIV infections diagnosed annually and earlier detection becoming more common, better understanding of early virus-host interactions could have a great impact on future research and drug therapy. In this study, the researchers describe a novel mechanism of HIV-1 spread by dendritic cells. These cells, which are present at the body's mucosal surfaces, are the focus of research because they are among the first cells to encounter HIV-1 and trigger the immune system. While previous work has focused on the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein method of interactions, this research details the role of a molecule called GM3, which arises from the host itself and is used by the virus for attachment and spread.