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April 23, 2009, 5:03 AM CT

DNA-based vaccination against chronic hepatitis C

DNA-based vaccination against chronic hepatitis C
Copenhagen, Denmark, Thursday 23 April: The first-proof-of-concept for a DNA-based therapeutic vaccination against chronic hepatitis C was announced recently at EASL 2009, the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In the first clinical trial of a therapeutic vaccination using naked DNA delivered by in vivo electroporation (EP), antiviral effects were shown in patients with hepatitis C (HCV). Scientists hope that this will encourage further clinical development. The data also provide further evidence for the antiviral role of the HCV-specific T cell response.

It is estimated that some 3% of the world's population is infected with HCV. In industrialised countries, hepatitis C accounts for 70% of chronic hepatitis cases. One of the main concerns is that HCV infection remains asymptomatic until advanced stages of the disease.

Clearance of HCV infection correlates with activation of the host T cell response. Therefore, in this study, scientists developed a T cell vaccine based on a codon-optimised HCV non-structural (NS) 3/4A DNA-gene expressed under the control of the cytomegalovirus immediate-early promoter (ChronVac-C) delivered by in vivo electroporation (EP). A first phase I/IIa clinical trial in HCV infected patients is currently ongoing.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 31, 2009, 4:06 PM CT

New treatment for HIV infection

New treatment for HIV infection
A potential therapy for HIV may one day help people who are not responding to Anti-Retroviral Therapy, suggests new research published tomorrow in The Journal of Immunology Researchers looking at monkeys with the simian form of HIV were able to reduce the virus levels in the blood to undetectable levels, by treating the monkeys with a molecule called D-1mT alongside Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).

Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) is very similar to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and it is used to study the condition in animal models. In both HIV and SIV, the level of virus in the blood, or 'viral load', is important because when the viral load is high, the disease progresses and it depletes the patient's immune system. This eventually leads to the onset of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), where the patient cannot fight infections which would be innocuous in healthy individuals.

Currently, the 'gold standard' therapy for HIV is Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), a cocktail of drugs that reduces the viral load by stopping the virus from replicating. HAART can increase the life expectancy of an HIV-positive patient substantially if it works well. However, the therapy is not effective for around one in ten patients, partly because some develop resistance to the drugs used in HAART. The researchers, from Imperial College London, the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, and Innsbruck Medical University, hope their study could ultimately lead to a new therapy that will help HAART to work more effectively in these people.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 5:17 AM CT

Flu Infection and Pneumonia

Flu Infection and Pneumonia
A joint venture from scientists from the Helmholtz-Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, the Otto-von-Guericke-University in Magdeburg, and the Karolinska institute in Sweden have taken an in-depth look at the correlation between flu infection and pneumonia. Their results, recently released in the scientific journal "PLoS One", have disproven a common theory about flu-like pneumonia.

Some viral infections trigger a decrease of immune cells in the blood a so-called "lymphopenia". The reasons behind it and whether this is the case with influenza are unknown. To investigate the latter, HZI scientists infected mice with flu viruses and measured the amount of immune cells in the animal's blood every day. Some days later, flu-infected mice received a dosage of pneumonia bacteria commonly harmless for healthy mice. While the flu-infected mice did develop a superinfection & subsequently died, surprisingly, they were not suffering from lymphopenia. The healthy, non-flu-infected mice defeated the bacteria successfully and recovered.

To discover whether a lack of immune cells encourages an infection with pneumonia bacteria in general, an artificial drug-induced lymphopenia was established in the mice. Without infecting these lymphopenic mice with flu viruses, they received pneumonia bacteria. Despite a severe lack of immune cells, the mice recovered completely.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 5:08 AM CT

Engineering flu vaccines

Engineering flu vaccines
Iinfluenza virus.

Credit: NIAID
A new computerized method of testing could help world health officials better identify flu vaccines that are effective against multiple strains of the disease. Rice University researchers who created the method say tests of data from bird flu and seasonal flu outbreaks suggest their method can better gauge the efficacy of proposed vaccines than can tests used today.

Rice's Michael Deem, the lead scientist on the project, will present the group's results March 19 at the American Physical Society's 2009 meeting in Pittsburgh. The results are also slated to appear in the forthcoming book "Influenza: Molecular Virology" from Horizon Scientific Press.

Avian flu, or bird flu, is a especially deadly type of flu that's transmitted from birds to humans. It hasn't yet evolved into a form that can be transmitted readily between humans, but researchers and world health authorities are trying to prepare for a potential outbreak. Because the virus mutates continually, creating a vaccine in advance is problematic. For example, researchers have already observed that a vaccine designed for the 1997 strain of bird flu does not work against a 2003 strain.

"Current vaccines contain only a single version of a given flu subtype," Deem said. "We wanted to gauge the effectiveness of a vaccine that contained multiple versions of a given subtype".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 4:59 AM CT

How clean are your hands?

How clean are your hands?
Epidemiologists and computer researchers at the University of Iowa have collaborated to create a new low-cost, green technology for automatically tracking the use of hand hygiene dispensers before healthcare workers enter and after they exit patient rooms. This novel method of monitoring hand hygiene compliance, which is essential for infection control in hospitals, was released recently at the annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA).

"We know that a range of pathogens are spread from healthcare workers to patients by direct touch and that the current rates of hand hygiene compliance are suboptimal," said Philip Polgreen, MD, University of Iowa Health Care. "Our new low-cost method of monitoring could potentially reduce cost while increasing compliance rates." The failure of healthcare workers to perform appropriate hand hygiene is one of the leading preventable causes of healthcare-associated infections.

This new technology marks a major shift from the current method of monitoring hand hygiene compliance that involves direct human observation, which is both costly and labor intensive. With human observation there is also the potential for a "Hawthorne Effect," which means workers will only clean their hands when being actively observed. Older automated monitoring technology, called radio-frequency identification (RFID) infrastructure, is available, but can be prohibitively costly and consumes far more power than Polgreen's method.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 8:22 PM CT

Waking up dormant HIV

Waking up dormant HIV
HAART (highly active anti-retroviral treatment) has emerged as an extremely effective HIV therapy that keeps virus levels almost undetectable; however, HAART can never truly eradicate the virus as some HIV always remains dormant in cells. But, a chemical called suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), recently approved as a leukemia drug, has now been shown to 'turn on' latent HIV, making it an attractive candidate to weed out the hidden virus that HAART misses.

Matija Peterlin at UCSF and his colleagues had previously identified another chemical called HMBA that could activate latent HIV, but the risk of several toxic side effects made HMBA clinically non-viable. However, the chemically similar SAHA had received FDA approval, making it a potentially safer alternate.

So, the scientists examined whether SAHA had any effect on HIV latency. They observed that SAHA could indeed stimulate latent HIV to begin replicating, which exposes the infected cell to HAART drugs. SAHA could activate HIV in both laboratory cells as well as from blood samples taken from HIV patients on antiretroviral treatment. Importantly, this successful activation was achieved using clinical doses of SAHA, suggesting toxicity will not be a problem.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 7:57 PM CT

Catching the common cold virus

Catching the common cold virus
A BYU research team published a study on the genome of the rhinovirus, which causes about half of common colds.
A newly released study by Brigham Young University scientists on the virus behind nearly half of all cold infections explains how and where evolution occurs in the rhinovirus genome and what this means for possible vaccines.

The study is published in the recent issue of the academic journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

"There are a lot of different approaches to treating the cold, none of which seem to be effective," said Keith Crandall, professor of biology and co-author of the study. "This is partly because we haven't spent a lot of time studying the virus and its history to see how it's responding to the human immune system and drugs".

The BYU team studied genomic sequences available online and used computer algorithms to estimate how the rhinovirus is correlation to other viruses.

As per Nicole Lewis-Rogers, a postdoctoral fellow in the Biology Department and main author on the study, the rhinovirus is similar to the polio virus, whose vaccine was announced in 1955. But while the polio virus has just three subspecies, the rhinovirus has more than 100 subspecies, which continually evolve.

"These viruses could be under the same constraints and yet change differently," Lewis-Rogers said. "That's why it is so hard to create a vaccine".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 5:17 AM CT

A natural approach for HIV vaccine

A natural approach for HIV vaccine
HIV
For 25 years, scientists have tried and failed to develop an HIV vaccine, primarily by focusing on a small number of engineered "super antibodies" to fend off the virus before it takes hold. So far, these magic bullet antibodies have proved impossible to produce in people. Now, in research to be published March 15 online by Nature, researchers at The Rockefeller University have laid out a new approach. They have identified a diverse team of antibodies in "slow-progressing" HIV patients whose coordinated pack hunting knocks down the virus just as well as their super-antibody cousins fighting solo.

By showcasing the dynamic, natural immune response in these exceptional patients, the research, led by Michel C. Nussenzweig, Sherman Fairchild Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, suggests that an effective HIV vaccine may come from a shotgun approach using of a wide range of natural antibodies rather than an engineered magic bullet.

"We wanted to try something different, so we tried to reproduce what's in the patient. And what's in the patient is a number of different antibodies that individually have limited neutralizing abilities but together are quite powerful," says Nussenzweig, who also is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "This should make people think about what an effective vaccine should look like."........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 3, 2009, 6:10 AM CT

Treating high cholesterol in HIV patients

Treating high cholesterol in HIV patients
A newly released study in the online issue of Annals of Internal Medicine has observed that cholesterol medications can work well among certain HIV patients at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Though HIV patients are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease in part due to lipid abnormalities that can occur with the use of certain antiretroviral therapies, scientists now have evidence that cholesterol medications work very well in this population.

"This should be encouraging for patients and their providers," said the study's main author Michael Silverberg, PhD, MPH, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland. CA. He explained that HIV Patients getting cholesterol-lowering therapys such as statins get slightly less benefit on cholesterol levels from the therapy as patients without HIV infection, but it is still a clinically significant benefit and side effects from the drugs occurred in very few patients.

In addition, say the researchers, the use of fibrates in combination with NNRTIs (a class of antiretroviral drugs) appears to be a good choice to manage triglyceride levels in HIV patients. Triglycerides are another fat in that blood that contributes to inflammation of the pancreas and may contribute to coronary disease, they explain.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 3, 2009, 6:07 AM CT

Increasing prevalence of drug resistant Influenza

Increasing prevalence of drug resistant Influenza
Influenza A viruses (H1N1 subtype) that are resistant to the drug oseltamivir circulated widely in the U.S. during the 2007-2008 influenza season, with an even higher prevalence of drug resistance during the current 2008-2009 influenza season, as per a research studyto be reported in the March 11 issue of JAMA, and being released early online because of its public health importance.

During the 2007-2008 influenza season, increased levels of resistance to the influenza drug oseltamivir (marketed as Tamiflu) were detected for the first time in the United States and worldwide. In addition, early 2008-2009 influenza season surveillance data suggest that oseltamivir resistance among influenza A(H1N1) viruses will most likely be higher, as per background information in the article. It was unknown whether some resistant viruses would cause clinical illness similar to other influenza viruses.

Nila J. Dharan, M.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and his colleagues examined the trends and characteristics of patients infected with oseltamivir-resistant and -susceptible influenza A(H1N1) virus. These viruses, identified and submitted to the CDC by U.S. public health laboratories between September 2007 and May 2008 and between September 28, 2008, and February 19, 2009, were tested as part of ongoing surveillance.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have found a genetic marker that may identify individuals at greater risk for life-threatening infection from the West Nile virus. Results of the study are reported in the Nov. 15 print edition of Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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