Tuesday, October 31, 2017

New Information on Zika Virus

A recent study out of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine proposes a new understanding regarding how Zika Virus is able to infect a fetus' brain cells. The researchers are calling the strategy a "Trojan Horse". Their findings suggest that Zika Virus is able to infect core cells in the brain of a fetus that later become essential to the immune response.

Indeed, Dr. Alysson Muotri explains that "Zika virus can infect these early microglia, sneaking into the brain where they transmit the virus to other brain cells, resulting in the devastating neurological damage we see in some newborns." The microglia that Zika virus is able to infect directly transports the virus into the Central Nervous System which then allows it to attack the brain and cause the microcephaly that has been reported among patients infected with Zika virus. 

The study has only been performed at very preliminary stages. However, the results suggest great promise for the future. The researchers believe that maybe these microglia cells may be a good place to target therapeutics. By targeting the potentially largest transmitting agent of Zika Virus within the body, the therapy would hopefully prevent transmission all together into the fetuses Central Nervous System. 

Source: http://www.idse.net/Emerging-Diseases/Article/10-17/Zika-Virus-Uses-Trojan-Horse-Strategy-to-Infect-Fetal-Brain-Cells/45109


UPDATE State of Emergency: Hepatitis A in California

To date, there have been 600 cases, 395 hospitalizations, and 19 deaths since November 2016 due to Hepatitis A. Last week Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency to free up resources to help actively deal with the spread of the Hepatitis A infection.

Paramedics and health workers have been vaccinating those at high risk of infection in areas of outbreak primarily in southern California. High risk individuals include homeless and illicit drug-users. However health works have had significant difficulty finding and administering immunizations to high risk individuals.

This is the largest Hepatitis A outbreak in an OECD country since pre-vaccination days.



Monday, October 30, 2017

ICP and Herpies

   In Bob Siegel's Humans and Viruses course last week a guest by the name of Erin came in to teach about how the role a protein known as ICP plays in a herpes infection.
  She described it made is seem like herpies was able to give off a certain signal that kept all antiviral cells away allowing to live in the body's cells for seemingly forever.  With a little digging it turns out that researcher have been wondering how the herpies virus evades the immune system for decades.
  Impressively the virus has developed a few ways to hajack a host's immune family.   It has several different ways of confusing CD8+ lymphocytes and to become a very infective virus. 
  Herpes simplex virus, when it enters the cell encodes for the cell to produce fewer MHC class 1 molecules. With less MHC I then the lymphatic cells cannot tell that the host cell is infected at all, and the herpes virus can lay low, in latency. The really interesting part though is that when herpes wants to end its latency, it does not just knock out the MHC receptors, but it also reduces the amounts of ICP 47 that the cell has.  ICP 47 then attacks the transporter that allows antigens within the MHC Class 1: Without this transporter herpes do not have to worry about being attacked by immune cells that normally would spot viral proteins being produced and then mark the cell for destruction.

Nipah Virus, Bats and bamboo skirts

Often times the best, most cost effective way to suppress disease outbreaks is through prevention. We do this through vaccinations and washing our hands, and also through environmental interventions. 

One such environmental intervention has been proposed to quell outbreaks of Nipah Virus (NiV). NiV, an emerging infectious disease that causes acute encephalitis first isolated in 1998, has caused three separate outbreaks in Bangladesh over the last decade.

 In all three of these outbreaks the index case has been traced back to an individual who drank raw date sap (tira) and then spread the disease from person to person.  The pathway for how a person gets a virus from eating raw date sap may seem unclear but is actually very interesting.   

Fruit bats are an important pollinator in the forests of Bangladesh, but when farmers began tapping date palm trees for sap, the bats saw these sap collection targets as big bowls full of food. They frequented the sap bowls to drink and also often defecated in them as well. As resevior hosts of NiV, the bat guano contained the virus and then when humans came back to drink the raw date palm sap they became sick as well.   

 Researchers from Stanford devised woven bamboo covers that farmers could use to cover their sap containers and prevent bats from landing and drinking the sap from them.  They have run a course of three trials testing this intervention and have found no guano in the containers that had been covered. Also these covers may have helped prevent more outbreaks of NiV, but more work must be done to assert a higher level of correlation. 

- Chris LeBoa 

Al, M. I. et. (n.d.). Nipah Virus Transmission from Bats to Humans Associated with Drinking Traditional Liquor Made from Date Palm Sap, Bangladesh, 2011–2014 - Volume 22, Number 4—April 2016 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2204.151747

Khan, S. U., Gurley, E. S., Hossain, M. J., Nahar, N., Sharker, M. A. Y., & Luby, S. P. (2012). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Interventions to Impede Date Palm Sap Contamination by Bats to Prevent Nipah Virus Transmission in Bangladesh. PLoS ONE, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0042689

Luby, S. P. (2013). The pandemic potential of Nipah virus. Antiviral Research, 100(1), 38–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.antiviral.2013.07.011

Luby, S. P., Rahman, M., Hossain, M. J., Blum, L. S., Husain, M. M., Gurley, E., … Ksiazek, T. G. (2006). Foodborne Transmission of Nipah Virus, Bangladesh. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 12(12), 1888–1894. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid1212.060732

Nahar, N., Mondal, U. K., Hossain, M. J., Khan, M. S. U., Sultana, R., Gurley, E. S., & Luby, S. P. (2014). Piloting the promotion of bamboo skirt barriers to prevent Nipah virus transmission through date palm sap in Bangladesh. Global Health Promotion, 21(4), 7–15. https://doi.org/10.1177/1757975914528249

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Changes in California Sentencing Laws for HIV Transmission

Recently Gov. Jerry Brown has signed Senate Bill 239 into law, changing older legislation pertaining to the sentencing related to HIV. However, much controversy has ensued.

For one, the new bill repeals old legislation that mandates that those who are aware of their HIV positive status, have unprotected sex with someone with whom they have not disclosed this status with the intent of transmitting the virus can be convicted of a felony with 3-8 years in state prison. The old legislation also says that those who are HIV positive and intentionally donate blood materials that end up infecting someone can be sentenced with a felony and 2-6 years in state prison. There are also parts in the old legislation that single out sex-workers who test HIV positive, giving them extra hoops to jump through.

The new legislation removes language regarding sex workers, and makes both of the above offenses misdemeanors punishable with up to 6 months in state prison.

Much of the outrage lies in the fact that people feel that the new legislation lets those who intentionally infect people with a potentially deadly disease off with a misdemeanor. On the other hand, others argue that this bill brings us into a modern age of destigmatizing those with HIV and making the playing field more equitable for sex workers. They also argue that HIV is no longer a lethal disease, as drugs are available to manage it.

What do you think?



CDC Updates Guidance on Zika Virus Infection in Infants

As we continue to learn more about the effects of Zika virus as a teratogen, our medical guidelines struggle to keep up with the pace of our growing knowledge. In an Oct. 22 MMWR report, the CDC updates the guidelines for follow-up care with infants for Zika-related causes in an attempt to stay up-to-date with recent discoveries.

  1. For infants with birth defects characteristic of congenital Zika syndrome, continue to monitor for:
    • hydrocephaly
    • respiratory issues
    • issues with swallowing
    • consult with ID and neurology
    • head ultrasound and ophthalmologic exam before 1 month of age
    • No auditory tests past 4-6 months of age since delayed onset hearing loss is found to be not characteristic of congenital Zika syndrome 
  2. For infants whose mothers tested positive for Zika virus during pregnancy but do not have any apparent deficits:

  3. head ultrasound and ophthalmologic exam before 1 month of age

  4. CDC guidelines will continue to be updated as more is discovered about the effects of Zika virus on the developing fetus.



    West Nile Virus in France

    A woman from Nice, France presented with flu-like symptoms (headache, pain, fever) and was diagnosed with a West Nile Virus infection. The virus is often transmitted by mosquitos; therefore, public health officials are urging residents of the area to prevent mosquitos bites by covering their skin and using insect repellant. She is being treated, and her case is the first in the Nice area since 2015.

    Some measures being taken to decrease the risk of transmission include: restrictions for the collection of "blood products and organ harvesting" and a search for other cases in hospitals and other health facilities.

    Since the beginning of 2017, there have been several cases reported across the European Union including: 62 cases in Romania, 54 in Italy, 48 in Greece, 19 in Hungary, 4 in Croatia, 4 in Austria, and 1 in Bulgaria.



    Marburg Virus in Uganda

    Just two years ago the whole world was on edge after the deadly ebola epidemic began spreading across Western Africa. Ebola, a type of filovirus caused sudden and severe hemorrhagic fever, killing many that it infected.  Airports implemented screenings,  and entire villages were quarantined, yet 28,000 people  still became infected with the disease and thousands died before the outbreak was controlled.
       Now, another deadly filovirus outbreak is just starting in Uganda. Mahrburg virus, which causes symptoms very similar to ebola like watery diarrhea and violent hemorrhagic fever has already claimed one life and infected five in the last week. The outbreak, which was originally began in September of 2017 started with a man who doctors thought had malaria. It then spread to his sister who was preparing him for his funeral. This week the Uganda health department has also reported that two healthcare workers who tried to treat the original index case are also thought to be infected.
         Both the Ugandan Health Department and the WHO are afraid of this outbreak becoming as bad as the 2014-2016 outbreak and are doing all they can to nip it at the bud. The Ugandan Ministry of health has tracked down all 155 people that the index case possibly had contact with before his death and the WHO has send in a "strike team" as well as 500,000 USD in funding to stop the spread of the virus. Stay tuned for more details over the coming weeks.
    - Chris LeBoa

    Tuesday, October 24, 2017

    The Unseen HIV Epidemic in America

    Often times, the social issues surrounding viruses prove to be the most intractable when it comes to creating change and translating the science into action. We've talked in class about how every virus causing human disease could be vaccinated against, or eradicated if everyone was treated at the exact same time. Yet, we have to ask questions like who would fund such an endeavor? If this demonstrates anything, it is that we are often at odds with issues that go beyond what might be best for everyone.

    This article from the NYT magazine attempts to highlight the HIV epidemic in America that contrasts along various socioeconomic lines from the AIDS epidemic of the early 1980's. It reads like an exposé, claiming that the not only does the South have the highest incidence of HIV, the epidemic is almost exclusively affecting young, African-American males. The author argues that intense stigma in this region of the U.S. compounds the systematic failings in disseminating information and resources to this group of people. The most harrowing statistic predicts that 1 in 2 African-American men, who identify as homosexual, will contract HIV in their lifetime.

    In the end, public health programs need to redirect their efforts to helping those belonging to this population. Whether it be through more transparent, accessible care or the efforts of people like Mr. Strudevant, a traveling nurse who ensures people have the social capital to live healthy lives with HIV.

    Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/06/magazine/americas-hidden-hiv-epidemic.html

    - Andrew

    Saturday, October 21, 2017

    A New Vaccine on the Market to Prevent Shingles

    The FDA recently approved a new vaccine that is supposedly more effective than the current option to help combat shingles. Shingles is a painful virus that is relatively common throughout the United States. An estimated 1/3 of people who have had chickenpox get shingles. This results in almost 1 million Americans every year getting shingles that can result in extremely painful sores It is caused by Varicella-Zoster Virus within the Herpesviridae family and is often a resurfacing many years later of the chickenpox virus.

    The first vaccine was released in 2006 and received relative success with about 50% efficacy. The new vaccine, produced by Glaxo, is found to be about 90% effective. Vaccines are currently recommended for adults 60 years and older. However, they can be administered at 50 years or older depending on the situation. Most insurances are expected to cover this new series of two vaccines, which costs about $280. This is in comparison to the current $223 vaccines being administered by Merck. The recent approval on Friday from the FDA will likely bring the vaccine into market soon. However, more research will be done to compare the new vaccine with the current vaccine produced by Merck to compare side effects, long-term efficacy, and prevention of the virus. Stay tuned for results!

    Source: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/fda-approves-better-vaccine-against-painful-shingles-virus/


    Friday, October 20, 2017

    Zika Twins: A Window Into Much More Than a Virus

    One form of transmission for the Zika virus is the vertical form, and this article takes us to Brazil where it goes through the effect of the Zika virus on the fraternal twin babies of a woman that was exposed to Zika-infected mosquitoes during the time of her pregnancy. What was interesting about this case was that only one of the fraternal twins was symptomatic, as he was born with microcephaly. The other twin, his sister, was perfectly healthy.

    Twin cases are fascinating because they have a lot of similarities from their genetics to their general environment, which allows researchers to extrapolate data that they otherwise would not be able to. Out of the known cases of twins exposed to Zika virus through the mother, both sets of identical twins had brain damage. However, in six out of seven cases of fraternal twins, only one of the twins suffered from brain damage while the other one was normally functioning.

    Throughout the rest of the article, the writer highlights the extreme poverty that the family with the fraternal twins was in and how they were essentially incapable of caring for this child in need, leading them to give the child to another caretaker.

    - Eyasu Kebede

    Thursday, October 19, 2017

    ‘Brilliant,’ 41 and Lost to AIDS: The Theater World Asks Why

    Michael Friedman was well-known in the world of theater. A composer an lyricist, he was much loved and a rising star. However, his life was tragically cut short by AIDS, leaving family and friends wondering what they could have done to prevent this.

    Michael Friedman was diagnosed with AIDS only July of this year after experiencing difficulty breathing, weakness, and splotches on the face. Some of his friends had thought that the splotches were reminiscent of Kaposi's Sarcoma at the time, but dismissed it due to it being 2017 and not the 80's. Today, HIV/AIDS is viewed as a manageable chronic disease that allows people to live almost as long as someone who is not infected.

    However, this was not to be the case for Mr. Friedman. Less than three months after his diagnosis and despite hospitalizations and relentless anti-retroviral therapies, it was too late. In the wake of his passing, the theater community tries to continue his work and are more aware of the fact that HIV/AIDS is still very much capable of taking away those we cherish in the prime of their lives.

    ‘Brilliant,’ 41 and Lost to AIDS: The Theater World Asks Why

    ~Scarlett Guo

    Ebola's Legacy: Children with Cataracts

    The Ebola epidemic in West Africa that ran from 2013 to 2016 was the worst outbreak in history, and claimed thousands of lives. While the outbreak is effectively over, many survivors are still dealing with the consequences. It turns out that one of these consequences can be blindness.

    It was noted that the virus can be found hiding in the eye for months after the infection. However, it has recently been noted that about 20% of Ebola survivors experience eye complications including Uveitis followed by severe scarring and cataracts. This can lead to permanent blindness without treatment. Surgeons that operate on Ebola survivors must take extra precautions to remove cataracts or perform other procedures since the virus is known to be active in the eye while the patient is experiencing Uveitis.

    Today, there are around 17,000 Ebola survivors in West Africa, meaning that there are around 3,400 survivors continuing to deal with serious eye complications that can stand in the way of livelihoods.

    Ebola's Legacy: Children with Cataracts

    ~Scarlett Guo

    Another bird virus, but this isn't flu! (It's Usutu)

    A virus called Usutu virus has shown up in viral news recently. It's normally considered to be a songbird virus (i.e. it infects and replicates and lives in viruses, if you can say viruses live), but it can infect humans via the bite of infected mosquitoes. Recently, it has been active in Austria; a Viennese research team found the virus in sixteen songbirds and the blood of seven separate blood donors, indicating human infection is more common than originally thought.

    While this virus is actually an African-borne Flavivirus, it's first discovery occurred in Austria in 2001 when it caused a large bird die-off. In the past, it's been observed to infect humans, but it's generally asymptomatic (possibly with minor fever and rash). However, in some individuals (especially immunocompromised folks), it causes severe courses with neurological presentations. No fear, however, because it's not considered a communicable disease (so maybe humans are dead-end hosts).

    Of the seven donors, none had clinical symptoms. The viruses collected from these individuals have been studied by Austrian and Hungarian scientists, and these strains are noticeably different from the 2001-2005 viral samples. So, this viral species might be one to watch out for in the future if you're traveling to Austria/Hungary!

    I'll see Usutu-you later! ;)

    -Javarcia Ivory


    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    The Other Viral Pathogen: Cancer

    We may have learned about the contagious cancers of Tasmanian devils and the parvovirus plaguing sea stars, but a bridge between the two may have been found in clams. About a year ago, researchers found free-floating infectious cancer cells that could be linked to clams. The discovery came as a surprise and instantly led to speculation of what could give rise to such a pathogen.

    One hypothesis (which is the only relevant one to this class) posits that ~viruses~ may be the cause of these infectious cancers, but how they do it is still under investigation. Viruses that cause tumors do so by altering regulation if gene expression in host cells. Doing so ensures that viral genes are expressed, but it comes at a price to its host whose cells may begin to divide uncontrollably without regulation. This much has been characterized, but the jump from malignancy in the body to transmissible cancer has yet to be explained.

    The next consideration people made after this discovery was whether or not such a pathogen could arise in the human population. The article cited a study in which hamsters with cancer were able to transmit their cancer cells to healthy hamsters via mosquitos. With that in mind, the focus is more on using infectious cancer as a model to shed light on metastasis, but it may also develop ways of understanding pathogenic cancer such that it can be prevented in humans.





    Monday, October 16, 2017

    Protect Your Cats!

    While flu season is beginning to approach us humans, cats around the world have been showing signs of a deadly virus of their own. From the United States to the United Kingdom, Feline Panleukopenia virus is spreading and killing cats. Five cats in an animal shelter have died recently in Cleveland from what is believed to be Feline Panleukopenia Virus. Feline Panleukopenia Virus is in the feline parvoviridae family This virus shows similar signs as that of K9 Parvovirus, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures (1). 

    An outbreak of the same virus has been reported recently in the United Kingdom in various shelters, killing upwards of 30 cats. The virus is spread most commonly through infected feces and fluids. It "can survive in the environment for up to a year", according to Joanna Szkutnicki, a clinician at one of the effected shelters (2). These two instances suggest even further the importance of vaccinating your cats as well as your dogs as this virus can be deadly in both animals. There are no signs of transmission to humans. 


    -Alexandra Ulmer

    Breaking: Immunization of 874,000 against Yellow Fever in Nigeria

    Today, October 16th 2017, the Government of Nigeria mobilized over 200 volunteers to help vaccinate residents ages 9 months to 45 years old. This campaign comes after the first case of Yellow Fever (of this outbreak) was reported on September 12th of this year.

    The Nigerian Government has partnered with the International Coordination Group to obtain vaccines against the virus which causes Yellow Fever, and the campaign is currently taking place in two states: Kwara state and Kogi state. Yellow Fever is caused by the Yellow Fever Virus a member of the Flaviviridae family.

    The World Health Organization has also partnered with the Government of Nigeria in order to continue to: monitor outbreaks, provide health education in at-risk communities, and implement public health measures.

    News source:

    World Health Organization statement:

    Information on the Yellow Fever Virus from Viral Zone:


    H3N2 Makes Its Way To The UK

    The NHS is preparing for the worst as a difficult and deadly strain of the flu makes its way from Australia to the UK. It is expected to be transmitted via travelers and tourists from Australia to the UK. In the biggest flu outbreak Australia has ever seen, the H3N2 flu virus infected 70,000 people this past winter (summer in the Northern Hemisphere) and killed more than 370. The H3N2 flu virus is the same one that was responsible for the 1968 outbreak in Hong Kong that killed over a million people. The virus is mutating quickly, in a process called antigenic shift, and there are concerns that this year's vaccine will thus be ineffective.

    The NHS has already had a very difficult year, with too many patients and too little funding. There are approximately 3.83 million people on the waiting list for hospital care and NHS staff and administrators fears that a H3N2 outbreak could completely overwhelm the NHS. Dr. Nick Scriven said, "If, as we expect, we see a flu outbreak, I think the NHS – in terms of both beds and clinical staff – will break far worse than last year and elective activity will almost certainly cease for several months." Elderly and immunocompromised populations are unsurprisingly most at risk of H3N2 infection, but there has also been a spike in infection rates in children between the ages of 5 and 9.

    - Emma Mathers

    Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4972556/Major-flu-outbreak-routine-operations-suspended-months-doctors.html

    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    Yellow Fever in Nigeria

    Multiple cases of yellow fever have been recorded in the African country of Nigeria. Since September, 10 cases (spread across various states [Kwara, Kogi, Plateau, Abia, and Edo]) have appeared in Nigerian residents. This has prompted response from the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, and the Federal Executive Council. Beginning in December, the Nigerian federal government plans to begin a nationwide vaccination against Yellow Fever Virus as a method to combat the current outbreak. Before the nationwide program, the Ministry of Health plans to start vaccinating residents of Kwara and Kogi, the regions with the highest number of reported cases thus far. Since this announcement, no new cases have come to light.

    Yellow fever vaccines are relatively prices, costing around $150 (including some consultation  but not administration fees). Likewise, a nationwide vaccination campaign, while extraordinarily useful, is likely to be quite the bill to fork up at the end of the year. Yellow fever vaccine was discovered in the 1950's by the Rockefeller Foundation (and was merit for a Nobel Prize). The current versions of the vaccine are live-attenuated vaccines distributed as single doses, granting "lifelong" immunity against the yellow fever virus. It's recommended only for those 9 months and older (preferably under 60 years old), but it is only regularly administered to those who live in or travel to Africa or South America with booster shots.

    Yellow fever virus is a RNA virus of the Flavivirus genus, transmitted by Aedes or Haemagogus mosquitoes infected by infected primates (including humans). This virus is so common in myriad environments that its transmission cycle has been broken down into three intertwined cycles (the jungle, urban, and savannah) reflecting its ability to survive in tropical and subtropical climates across large areas.

    I'll Yellow fev-ah see yah later. ;)

    -Javarcia Ivory

    Got Calcium? Calcium helps T cells proliferate and fight viruses

    A recent study at NYU School of Medicine has provided a new perspective on how our bodies, specifically T-cells, respond to a viral infection. It turns out that calcium is extremely important in helping T-cells proliferate by activating a transcription factor called NFAT, which turns on genes that regulate the uptake and breakdown of glucose. Moreover, a specific calcium channel present in T-cells, or SOCE (store-operated calcium entry), is directly responsible for regulating and activating NFAT, which means that SOCE, or calcium flow into these T-cells, are directly responsible for the breakdown of glucose that is required for T-cell proliferation. This new finding helps explain how drugs like tacrolimus help fight autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, (diseases where an oversensitive immune system ends up attacking the body's own tissues) since it shuts down the NFAT pathway therefore inhibiting glucose usage and T-cell proliferation. Furthermore, the research team also found that human patients with deficiencies in these calcium channels did not have T-cells that were proliferating or taking up glucose upon T-cell isolation.

    Looking forward, Martin Veath, a postdoctoral researcher that works under Dr. Feske at the Department of Pathology in NYU, states "These results are timely because the field is currently exploring whether a drug class CRAC channel inhibitors can be used safely against autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in human patients, and our study fills in key details on some of the relevant mechanisms." If such a drug class was approved, treatment of viral infections would certainly improve.

    -Daniel Gutierrez


    Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    Are We Part-Human/Part-Virus?

    Our genome is not entirely made up of human genes, there are roughly 100,00 pieces of viral DNA in our genome. This constitutes 8% of our entire genome. This past July, scientist found a protein called Hemo in the veins of pregnant women. What was more surprising was that this protein is not made by the mother, but in the fetus in the placenta. Hemo is made from a viral gene that infected our mammalian ancestors more than 100 years ago.

    DNA viral genes in humans can be good and bad. While some can help defend us from disease, others increase our risk for diseases like cancer by through activating cells to switch on other genes. Others like, Dr. Coffin, a virologist from Tufts University, argue that viral DNA has played a vital role in human evolution as some viral proteins aid in reproduction. For instance, syncytins are made from viral DNA and fuse placenta cells together, which is necessary part of normal fetal development.  

    There are many hypotheses on the significance of Hemo. Some experiments suggest that this protein helps the embryo develop different tissues. Researchers like Dr. Odile Heidmann from the Paris cancer research institute, suggests that Hemo proteins are the fetus’s message to the mother from the fetus to prevent the mother’s immune system from attacking it. Others suggests that viruses like Hemo may have exploited embryos to make more copies of themselves.

    -Jessica Ngo

    Wake up HIV

    While anti-AIDS drugs such as, antiretroviral therapy, are effective at suppressing HIV in people but these drugs do not get rid of the virus in the body. The patient is unfortunately still infected. If a patient with HIV stops taking their antiretroviral medication then the virus reemerges, replicates, and weakens the immune system. Using animal models, scientists from UCLA, Stanford, and the NIH may have developed a way to eliminate the “reservoirs” in which HIV hides.  They call this technique “kick and kill”, which is where a particle agent is sent into the body to wake up the dormant virus so that it either begins replicating to “kick" the immune system or the virus itself to kill cells with HIV.

    To give more information about the study: HIV infected mice were given antiretroviral drugs and then given SUW133, a synthetic compound (developed at Stanford) that activated the dormant virus. It was found that 25% of the previously dormant HIV cells that were woken up died within 24 hours.  Matthew Marsen, assistant professor of medicine at UCLA, believes that “With further development, the technique could lower the viral reservoir enough for people with HIV to be able to discontinue their anti-viral therapy.” With that said, this has many positive future implications. With more significant findings and human studies, using a less toxic version of SUW133, and a higher effectiveness rate, this molecule could potentially improve the quality of life for HIV patients.

    -Jessica Ngo