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[ Game Used By Researchers To Change How Scientists Study Outbreaks ]

Game Used By Researchers To Change How Scientists Study Outbreaks

An international team of scientists has created an innovative tool for teaching the fundamentals of epidemiology - the science of how infectious diseases move through a population. The team teaches a workshop annually in South Africa that helps epidemiologists improve the mathematical models they use to study outbreaks of diseases like cholera, AIDS and malaria. Led by Steve Bellan from the University of California at Berkeley, the team created a new game as a teaching aid for the workshop. The exercise, which has proven extremely effective in demonstrating concepts in epidemiology, is presented in the April 3 edition of the online, open-access journal PLoS Biology. In the game, players simulate a real-life epidemic by passing around pieces of paper that say, "You have been infected, " followed by instructions for propagating the disease.

Hunger, Food Insecurity Linked To Reduced Use Of Condoms For Women In Brazil

In this week's PLoS Medicine, Alexander Tsai of Harvard University, Cambridge, USA and colleagues show that in sexually active women in Brazil severe food insecurity with hunger was positively associated with symptoms potentially indicative of sexually transmitted infection and with reduced odds of condom use. The authors say: "Our findings suggest that interventions targeting food insecurity may have beneficial implications for HIV prevention. Individual-level cognitive and/or behavioral interventions targeting HIV risk avoidance or risk reduction behaviors are likely to be less than optimally effective if these structural factors are not also taken into account."

HIV Infection From Two Strains Increase Immune Response

The March 29 issue of the online Open Access journal PLoS Pathogens reveals that women with HIV superinfection, i.e. who have been infected by two different strains of HIV from two different sexual partners have more potent antibody responses that inhibit the virus from replicating compared to women who have only been infected once. The finding by researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center may provide insight to developing an HIV-1 vaccine, which offers protection against various circulating strains. Senior researcher, Julie Overbaugh commented: "We found that women who had been infected twice not only had more potent antibody responses, but some of these women had 'elite' antibody activity, meaning that they had a broad and potent ability to neutralize a wide variety of strains of HIV over a sustained period time.

HIV 'Superinfection' Boosts Immune Response

Women who have been infected by two different strains of HIV from two different sexual partners - a condition known as HIV superinfection - have more potent antibody responses that block the replication of the virus compared to women who've only been infected once. These findings, by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, are published online March 29 in PLoS Pathogens. "We found that women who had been infected twice not only had more potent antibody responses, but some of these women had 'elite' antibody activity, meaning that they had a broad and potent ability to neutralize a wide variety of strains of HIV over a sustained period of time, " said senior author Julie Overbaugh, Ph.D., a member of the Hutchinson Center's Human Biology Division. It is estimated that only about 1 percent of people with HIV are so-called "elite neutralizers" who are able to potently neutralize multiple subtypes of the virus.

HIV-Infected Men At Risk For Spreading HIV Despite Taking HAART

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Fenway Health have found that highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) does not completely suppress HIV in the semen of sexually active HIV-infected men who have sex with men (MSM). The findings, which currently appear on-line in AIDS, could indicate a potential transmission risk in MSM, who are highly susceptible to HIV infection. Approximately 33.3 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, and 1.8 million deaths and 2.6 million new infections occur annually. Unprotected intercourse is the most common route through which HIV-1 is transmitted, and semen of HIV-infected men is an important source of HIV. Whereas the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa is generalized with approximately equal percentages of infections occurring in men and women, the epidemic in the United States and many other developed countries is concentrated in men who have sex with men.


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