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Progress in HIV Research = Progress in Herpes Research

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Article explaining considerable progress currently being made in HIV research. I personally see progress like this encouraging for herpes cures. A successful solution to HIV could be manipulated and targeted to a weakness in herpes. Don't believe those that say HIV research is irrelevant to herpes. Because its not.

Thirty years after the AIDS epidemic surfaced, hope of conquering the deadly epidemic has never been greater, according to a longtime US leader in the AIDS fight, Anthony Fauci.

This hope has been spurred by recent advances toward a vaccine and new breakthoughs in treatment and prevention, said Fauci who has headed the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

"Over the last one and half years we have had several important advances which when you put them together and combine them are now pointing very strongly to the fact that we can essentially be able to ultimately control and obviously ultimately end the AIDS pandemic," he told AFP.

Previous discoveries include how male circumcision can reduce by almost 65 percent the risk of transmitting the human immunodeficiency virus, the effectiveness of vaginal microbicides and drug treatments that can prevent an infected pregnant mother from passing the disease to her child.

More recently, two clinical trials have shown just how effective antiretroviral drugs can be in preventing the spread of the incurable disease.

A study that ran from 2007-2009 and was published late last year showed that a combination of these drugs taken orally by uninfected gay men lowered their risk by 44 percent of becoming infected.

That rate rose above 70 percent when the pills were taken regularly, said Fauci who added he has "been in it now literally every day of my life for the last 30 years."

A clinical trial released this month involving mainly heterosexual couples in which one was infected and one was not showed a near elimination of the risk of transmission when the infected partner began an early regimen of antiretrovirals.

This trial is "extremely important because it proves the concept that when you seek out and treat them early rather than wait for their disease to advance, you have not only the well known beneficial effect of being good for the individual patient, but you have a very powerful secondary effect of preventing the transmission from the infected partner to their healthy sexual partner," said Fauci.

The NIAID and its researchers have been at the forefront of the fight against AIDS since the epidemic first surfaced in June 1981.

With regard to the hunt for a reliable vaccine, researchers have found some hope after 20 years of failure in a 2009 clinical trial carried out in Thailand.

"The vaccine trial in Thailand was only 31% effective, however that is at least a proof of concept that we can do better."

In 2010, teams of researchers identified two antibodies in a single individual which when combined in the lab blocked 90 percent of HIV strains known in the world.

Now that research is honing in on what specific part of the virus should be isolated for a vaccine.

"So if we are going to have a vaccine this year or next year or the year after, we don't know, but we are certainly making considerable progress."

In the meantime, a more comprehensive use of existing methods for prevention must be applied in the developing world in order to put the brakes on the epidemic, Fauci said.

"In the low and middle income countries, we only have about 30 to 40 percent of the people who really need therapy getting access to therapy," he said.

"The only way we can address this -- and this is the focus of what is going on over the past couple of years -- is prevention of HIV infection."

There are 2.7 million new infections each year, he added.

This gap will be difficult to bridge, warned Fauci, especially since the global economic turndown has slashed research budgets as a time when scientists need 10 to 15 bilion dollars more per year than the total 11 billion currently available for research.

"Unfortunately there is a very difficult constraint on resources throughout the world," he said.

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I couldn't agree more. Although, I have been wondering if HSV is even more difficult to cure. A vaccine for HIV could also be very beneficial to people with GH. Even if it does nothing for ob's and shedding. If it were to bring the odds of contracting HIV back down, or eliminate it, that's enough for me. But then again, I would think such a vaccine would give us a nice immune boost.

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Yeah, I saw this article about it and was glad to see that The International AIDS Society will this month formally add the aim of finding a cure to its HIV strategy of prevention, treatment and care. The cost of treating the disease is too much now and there is hope of curing it for the first time in a long time. I found it quite interesting that a gene mutation is responsible for the 1% of caucasions who are immuned to HIV. Now I am wondering if it's the same thing with people who are immuned to HSV. I haven't found any research showing that, but only research showing that there are people who are immuned. If scientist are able to use gene therapy to cure HIV, the same technique could possibly be used to cure HSV. But, that would be many years away.

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Here is another point in the article from Science Daily that I really like:

Now scientists working on mimicking the effect of the Berlin patient's transplant have had some success. One experimental technique uses gene therapy to take out certain cells, make them resistant to HIV and then put them back into patients in the hope they will survive and spread.

At an HIV conference in Boston earlier this year, American researchers presented data on six patients who had large numbers of white blood cells known as CD4 cells removed, manipulated to knock out the existing CCR5 gene, and then replaced.

"It works like scissors and cuts a piece of genetic information out of the DNA, and then closes the gap," says Huetter. "Then every cell arising from this mother cell has this same mutation."

Early results showed the mutated cells managed to survive inside the bodies of the patients at low levels, remaining present for more than three months in five. "This was a proof of concept," says Lewin. Another potential avenue is a small group of patients known as "elite controllers", who despite being infected with HIV are able to keep it under control simply with their own immune systems. Researchers hope these patients could one day be the clue to developing a successful HIV/AIDS vaccine or functional cure.

Scientists are also exploring ways to "wake up" HIV cells and kill them. As discovered in the late 1990s, HIV has a way of getting deep into the immune system itself -- into what are known as resting memory T-cells -- and going to sleep there. Hidden away, it effectively avoids drugs and the body's own immune response.

"Once it goes to sleep in a cell it can stay there forever, which is really the main reason why we can't cure HIV with current drugs," says Lewin. Her team in Melbourne and another group in the United States are about to start the first human trials using a drug called SAHA or vorinostat, made by Merck and currently used in cancer treatment, which has shown promise in being able to wake up dormant HIV.

Hmmm, cutting out the CCR5 gene and replacing it with the gene that causes immunity. That's Meganucleases. Cellectis has proven that they already have an enzyme that can do this for HSV but instead of replacing a gene, it would cut out the HSV genes so that it cannot replicate. So, if they are able to safely cure people with HIV in this way, they will also be able to cure HSV with the same technique. Looks like this promising strategy just might get moved along a little faster than originally anticipated. Keeping my fingers crossed.

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Towards the end of this video, Kate explains that only 3% of the funding for HIV from the NIH is for cure research. It's nice to see that it is increasing. But then again, I wonder if were having the same issue with HSV. Yet, if they do find the cure for HIV, that will free up a lot of funds and even boost the hope that a cure for HSV is possible. Remember, this video was posted in Nov of 2010. But recently a lot more money was granted for HIV cure research.

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