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The Other Side

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Four Promising New and Experimental AIDS Medications to Watch for

The AIDS and HIV research continue to create ways to treat AIDS and slow the spread of HIV. There are many new and experimental AIDS medications that may soon be available to those living with HIV and AIDS. Here are three antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and treatment strategies involving ARVs that have shown promise in studies:

  • TAF (tenofovir alafenamide). Tenofovir has been around for a number of years, and is a component of many of today’s most popular regimens for both HIV and prevention. Developers at Gilead Sciences created a new formulation that replaces 300mg tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) with 10 mg of tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), in order to reduce toxicity. This new pill has already been approved, in combination with elvtegravir, cobicistat, and emtricitabine, for use under the brand name Genvoya. Gilead plans to reformulate most of its existing tenofovir containing medications with this new, more potent, and safer verstion.
  • BMS-955176. Bristol-Myers Squibb’s next-generation maturation inhibitor showed promising antiviral activity fighting HIV subtypes B and C in proof-of-concept study presented at the 15th European AIDS Conference in Barcelona. The drug was also shown to be well-tolerated by patients and safe. AIDS Conference presenter representing Bristol-Myers Squibb Carey Hwang explained in his presentation that BMS-966176 causes cells infected with HIV to produce immature viruses that cannot infect other cells. This was a phase 2a study, and a phase 2b study is now underway. Side effects are still being discovered, but so far most patients reported nothing worse than headaches and abnormal dreams.
  • BMS-663068. Another Bristol-Meyers Squibb drug showing promise is the HIV attachment inhibitor BMS-663068. This drug was designed to prevent HIV cells from binding with the body’s T-cells. In a recent phase 2b study, the drug demonstrated optimal antiviral activity and was well-tolerated by patients after 24 weeks of treatment. In July of this year the FDA gave BMS-663068 a breakthrough therapy designation.
  • Also this month we heard some that studies are showing promise for a new injectable HIV regimen that would likely be administered with one shot every 10 weeks. The study combines rilpiverine (Johnson and Johnson) with cobetagravir (ViiV Healthcare), and is showing promise.

These drugs are hoped to be available to AIDS patients in the coming months/years. Some tests still need to be run to ensure efficacy and safety of these medications, and there seem to be some questions about the daily pill burden of BMS-663068 that may affect how patients take their medications, but as development continues, all of these drugs should be available to those living with HIV and AIDS. Drug companies like Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Gilead Sciences remain committed to finding ways to treat AIDS and HIV.

Attacking HIV With Both Arms: A New Artificial Antibody Treatment

HIV still doesn’t have a cure because the virus is incredibly complex. While advances in HIV medications have extended the lives of millions of people living with HIV and AIDS around the world, and new treatments and strategies are showing huge promise in the effort to end the epidemic, there is no cure. Two recent studies have given scientists hope that they can help the body identify and destroy HIV-infected cells and drain HIV reservoirs in the body. This strategy is still in development and carries its own risks at this stage, however.

Steven Deeks, HIV/AIDS clinician working at the University of California, San Francisco calls the thinking behind this new creative cure strategy “sound,” but adds: “there really is no room for error.” Scientists have tested whether they can trick cells in the body to produce new viruses, setting them up to be detected by the body’s immune system and eradicating HIV from the cells in the process, but recent work by researchers like Deeks has attempted to create bi-specific artificial antibodies that help the body detect HIV-infected cells, but also work to destroy them.

These new artificial antibodies are designed to grab an HIV protein with one of their arms and CD3, a receptor on the surface of white blood cells. Normally, antibodies use their Y-shaped structures to grab one specific target to mark it for destruction. These new artificial antibodies will hold onto two different structures to quickly eradicate HIV-infected cells. Scientists wanted their new antibodies to grab onto CD3 receptors because HIV often hides its genetic material inside white blood cells which are covered with CD3 receptors, and because another kind of cell, a so-called “killer T cell” also have CD3 receptors and they can be used to destroy the HIV-infected cells themselves.

Tests are underway on primates, and so far, researchers have yet to show that their artificial antibodies can consistently reduce reservoirs of HIV. These tests are still ongoing, and it may be a year before the same tests can be run on humans, if at all. Deeks, the researcher from UCSF, also cautions that using these bispecific antibodies can cause the body to overreact and activate too many “killer T cells”, which causes an extremely dangerous inflammatory reaction that can damage organs and cause death. Still, Deeks and other researchers are hopeful that bispecific, artificial antibodies may be the keys to the curing AIDS once and for all.

Staying Fit This Winter

The holiday season is upon us, and with it, the challenge to stay fit through all the holiday feasts coming up on the calendar. For many families, the holidays are a time to celebrate each other by coming together for family meals and sitting around by the fire. Many people struggle to stay in shape and stay at their optimal weight during this time of year, causing millions of people around the United States to make drastic New Year’s resolutions to cut back on the calories. You don’t have to go through that again this year if you start crafting healthy routines and habits now.

It’s no fun to go on a diet for Thanksgiving and Christmas. You should be able to allow yourself to enjoy the food and the family time that the holidays offer without going overboard. The danger of the holidays isn’t all in the large family meals with turkey, ham, and mashed potatoes with extra gravy, it’s the grazing and overeating that occurs on all the other days before and after the great feasts. It’s tempting to buy up all the Christmas candy you can find and bake extra pies for everyone before the big day, but in order to stay in shape, you have to resist these urges. Stick to your normal, healthy eating habits as much as possible before and after the big Thanksgiving meal. One large meal won’t cause you to put on weight, but consistent unhealthy snacking for weeks will.

It can also be difficult to stick to an exercise routine over the holidays. With so much extra to do during your normal daily routine, it can be easy to forgo that morning run, especially if it’s icy outside. If you’re a regular runner, as so many people are these days, there are two ways around the normal exercise freeze during this time of year. One is to invest in cold weather running gear now, before the snows start piling up. Skin-tight leggings and tops are excellent for insulating cold limbs and keeping them from getting exposed to the wind chill when you’re running. Running caps and light, fleece sweaters are also good options. The dark mornings and evenings might also throw you off your game. Now is a great time to invest in reflective safety clothing and headlamps to help you see and be seen in the dark. If running isn’t your thing anyway, scrap the morning and evening jaunts through the snow and do some indoor cardio exercises instead. You may feel like you’re in third grade again, but jumping jacks are an excellent cardio exercise you can do right in your living room. Calisthenics like weightlifting and even yoga are also excellent ways to burn calories indoors.

Whatever you do, develop a system to keep your exercise and diet routines normal during the holidays. This is a time when routines are disrupted and the normal measures we all take to keep ourselves fit are neglected. If you need to, create a new “holiday routine” to moderate your calorie intake and ensure that you work to burn excess calories off regularly.

Three Ways to Prevent Colds This Winter

With winter upon us, it’s time again to think about ways of staying healthy and avoiding colds and flus. Colds are caused by a virus that spreads from host to host as people come into contact with contaminated surfaces or substances that hold cold virus particles. Over 200 types of viruses are typically blamed for colds. Some of these viruses are seasonal—more active during periods of cold or wet weather. The human body is naturally more susceptible to the pathogens that cause the common cold in winter, when the cold affects the ability of our bodies to fight them off. Most adults catch at least two colds a year—most children catch between six and twelve. Here are three ways to lower your risk of catching colds this year:

  • The most celebrated and the most common way doctors tell their patients to avoid catching colds is frequent handwashing. Using soap and warm water, wash your hands for at least as long as it takes to sing a verse of “Happy Birthday.” The number of times you should wash your hands each day varies from source to source, but you should wash your hands after using the toilet, changing a diaper, blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing into your hands, touching raw meat, petting an animal or cleaning animal waste, shaking hands with someone, taking out the trash, or any activity that exposes you to unfriendly bacteria and other germs. This is the single most important step you can take to prevent the spread of viral infections causing colds.
  • Take vitamins. Another way to prevent catching a cold is to keep your immune system healthy. People with colds drink orange juice and eat fruits rich in vitamins A and C to boost their immune system and fight back their cold. Unfortunately, by the time you’re sick, your immune system won’t benefit very much in the short term from eating fruits and drinking juice. The best way to boost your immune system is to eat fruits and drink fresh juice regularly to give your body all the vitamins it needs to support a healthy immune system. Supply your body with extra vitamins in the winter months with supplements and vitamin tablets.
  • Avoid exposure. Stay away from friends and family who are sick with a cold as much as possible. Take extra care to wash and disinfect your hands if you come in contact with sick people, urge anyone you work with who is sick to stay home. Colds pass from host to host through transmission of germs. A person who is exhibiting symptoms can be contagious for several days after the worst of those symptoms have worn off, so be careful around people who have recently recovered from a cold.

It’s called the common cold for a reason. You’re likely to catch it at least once this winter, but if you stay healthy and take precautions to limit its spread and severity, you can get through the holidays with minimal cold-like symptoms.