Monday June 17, 2019

Antiretroviral drugs for HIV Patient may take a toll on Brain, also lead to Forgetfulness, Confusion and Behavioural and Motor changes: Study

HIV drugs, lead to the production of the peptide beta amyloid, often associated with Alzheimer's disease

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FILE - A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS. VOA

New York, Dec 17, 2016: Antiretroviral drugs have been life-changing therapies for HIV patients, but they can have significant side effects including neuronal degeneration, which can be manifested as forgetfulness, confusion and behavioural and motor changes, says a study.

Certain protease inhibitors, among the most effective HIV drugs, lead to the production of the peptide beta amyloid, often associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the study found.

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“Protease inhibitors are very effective antiviral therapies, but they do have inherent toxicities,” said senior author on the study Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, Professor at University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in the US.

The drugs prompt an increase in levels of the enzyme that cleaves the amyloid precursor protein, APP, to produce beta amyloid, which is responsible for the damage to neurons.

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Notably, inhibiting that enzyme, called BACE1, protected human and rodent brain cells from harm, suggesting that targetting this mechanism with a new drug could minimise damage to neurons in patients on antiretroviral therapies.

“Our findings may cause us to rethink how we’re using these drugs and even consider developing an adjunctive therapy to reduce some of these negative effects,” Jordan-Sciutto noted.

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To determine whether and how neuronal damage arises from drug treatment and to ascertain the enzyme BACE1’s role, the team investigated the effects of protease inhibitors in two animal models, then probed the mechanism of action in cells in culture.

The findings appeared in the American Journal of Pathology. (IANS)

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Zimbabwe Faces Shortage of Antiretroviral Drugs

Chiedza Chiwashira is one the HIV-positive inmates. The 18-year-old says the shortage of ARVs is not a big problem, but the shortage of other drugs is

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zimbabwe, HIV, antiretroviral drugs
Chiedza Chiwashira, one the HIV-positive inmates at Chikurubi Maximum Prison hospital, in Harare, Zimbabwe, June 13, 2019, says the shortage of ARVs is not a big problem, but the 18-year-old says the shortage of drugs for opportunistic drugs is a problem. VOA

A top UNAIDS official is in Zimbabwe as the country faces a moderate shortage of the anti-retroviral drugs that stop the progress of the disease. The situation is bad for HIV-positive Zimbabweans, but worse for prisoners living with the virus who say they are struggling to get treatment for opportunistic infections.

Zimbabwe’s maximum security prison is overcrowded, officials say, and that is putting a strain on resources, including medicines for inmates who have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Chiedza Chiwashira is one the HIV-positive inmates. The 18-year-old says the shortage of ARVs is not a big problem, but the shortage of other drugs is.

“Even painkillers we do not have. So if those kids, children of inmates, fall sick there is nothing to give them. Officials are saying things are tough out there so there is nothing they can do. At least we have cotrimoxazole and other ARVs. But if we fall sick it will be a problem. We appeal to those at home or those who can help us with medical drugs and antibiotics as the prison hospital has just ARVs,” Chiwashira said.

Dr. Blessing Dhorobha, the head of the Chikurubi Maximum Prison hospital, says the National Pharmaceutical Company is keeping the facility supplied with ARV drugs for now, but acknowledges other drugs are a problem.

“In terms of other opportunistic infections; pneumonia, meningitis, we are in short supply of those drugs such anti-hypertensives, anti-diabetics,” he said. “We are normally supplied by NatPharm. If they do not have stocks, then they do not deliver.”

antiretroviral drugs, zimbabwe
Shannon Hader, the deputy executive director of UNAIDS, talks to senior Zimbabwe Prisons Services at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, June 13, 2019. VOA

Shannon Hader, the deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said she came to Zimbabwe to see how it is helping vulnerable groups such as prison inmates and sex workers.

Hader says Zimbabwe has a good track record on AIDS, noting that the country introduced a tax to help patients, known as the AIDS levy, back in the 1990s.

However, “… what got us to this point in response won’t necessarily get us to the next level because what’s left to do might be more complicated than what we did first,” she said. “So I think Zimbabwe has the capacity to really accelerate, to meet the 2020 goals to be a model of the response. But that will take doubling in the next 18 months, and filling some of these gaps particularly with people that are often left behind.”

antiretroviral drugs
Raymond Yekeye, the head of Zimbabwe’s National AIDS Council, blames the shortage of medications on Zimbabwe’s chronic shortage of foreign currency. VOA

Raymond Yekeye, the head of Zimbabwe’s National AIDS Council, blames the shortage of medications on Zimbabwe’s chronic shortage of foreign currency.

ALSO READ: Zimbabweans Seeking Medical Help Fall by 50 Percent With Economy, Many Turn to Herbal Treatments

“We do have the AIDS Levy and it is sufficient to cover the gap that we require. But we have not accessed the foreign currency that we require to import the medicines,” he said. The lack of foreign currency has also made the country unable to import basic needs like food and fuel.

Earlier this week, the country’s health minister said Harare has begun receiving drugs from countries such as India, which donated drugs worth $250,000. That might ease the problem of shortages for prisoners with HIV, who can’t work to buy medicine on their own. (VOA)