Thursday July 19, 2018

Experiment on Monkeys regarding a New Drug combination Raises Hopes of ‘Functional Cure’ for fatal HIV

In 11 monkeys, the scientists then gave infusions of the antibody for 23 weeks, and seven monkeys got a placebo

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Healthy monkeys at the California National Primate Research Center in Davis, California. A new drug combination helped stave off a monkey version of HIV for nearly two years after stopping all treatments, raising hopes for a functional cure for HIV, U.S. researchers said on Thursday. VOA
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A new drug combination helped stave off a monkey version of HIV for nearly two years after stopping all treatments, raising hopes for a functional cure for HIV, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

The treatment involved standard HIV drugs, known as antiretroviral therapy or ART, plus an experimental antibody that hits the same target as Takeda Pharmaceutical’s Entyvio, a drug approved in more than 50 countries for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

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The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, are promising enough that scientists at the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research, have already begun testing the Takeda drug, known generically as vedolizumab, in people newly infected with HIV.

“The experimental treatment regimen appears to have given the immune systems of the monkeys the necessary boost to put the virus into sustained remission,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, part of the NIH, who co-led the study.

[bctt tweet=”The treatment that involves standard HIV drugs, known as antiretroviral therapy or ART.” username=””]

Sustained remission – known as a “functional cure” – could have sweeping implications for people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, which attacks the immune system.

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Highly effective treatments known as antiretroviral therapy push the virus down to undetectable levels in the blood, but they must be taken every day over a person’s lifetime to remain effective, said Aftab Ansari of Emory University School of Medicine who co-lead the study.

Ansari said the study was based on the understanding that in the early days of infection, HIV attacks a specific class of immune cells that congregate in large quantities in the gut. They theorised that if they could protect these immune cells, they could buy the immune system enough time to mount an effective response.

To do this, the team tested an antibody that blocks a protein called alpha-4/beta-7 integrin that HIV uses to attack immune cells in the gut.

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For the study, they infected 18 monkeys with simian immunodeficiency virus or SIV, the monkey version of HIV. They then treated all of the animals with ART for 90 days, and, as it does in humans, the ART controlled the virus, reducing it to undetectable levels.

Antiretroviral drugs used in this stage of the experiment included Gilead’s tenofovir and emtricitabine, sold in a combination drug for people as Truvada, and a Merck integrase inhibitor known as L-870812.

In 11 monkeys, the scientists then gave infusions of the antibody for 23 weeks, and seven monkeys got a placebo. Three of the 11 monkeys developed a reaction to the treatment and had to stop the therapy.

In the eight monkeys that got the treatment, six initially showed signs that SIV was rebounding, but eventually their immune systems were able to control the virus. In two others, the virus never rebounded. All eight have continued to suppress SIV to undetectable levels for up to 23 months after all treatment stopped. In the control group, SIV rebounded and all seven animals died.

The study did not look at whether the monkeys were still able to transmit the virus, but studies in people have shown that reducing HIV to undetectable levels cuts transmission rates by nearly 100 percent.

Ansari said the study is promising because it could eventually lead to a treatment for HIV in people that would not require a lifetime of ART therapy.

Scientists have recently focused on efforts to cure HIV, reducing the burden of lifelong treatment, but prior efforts have been frustrated by the HIV virus’ ability to form hidden reservoirs that replenish the virus when treatments are halted.

In one dramatic case, Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called “Berlin patient,” was cured of HIV after an elaborate treatment for leukemia in 2007 that involved the destruction of his immune system and a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection.

Ansari cautioned that not all treatments that work in monkeys will work in people. He said the findings are still very early, and said many more experiments are needed to understand why the antibody protected the monkeys.

Still, he said Takeda’s antibody vedolizumab is “identical” to the one the team used on the monkeys.

NIH researchers already have begun a study to see if a 30-week course of Takeda’s drug vedolizumab is safe and helps control HIV when patients are temporarily taken off conventional ART treatments. Preliminary results are expected by the end of 2017 with further data becoming available into 2018.

If proven safe, the drug would need to be studied in larger trials to prove it is also effective.

Takeda spokeswoman Elissa Johnsen said the company is “pleased to support the trial and contribute to scientific discovery” but said it was too early to comment on future development plans. (VOA)

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  • Antara

    A ray of hope! Great news!

  • Diksha Arya

    Great news… Hope the drug works..

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)