Real Medicine

Cure for AIDS: In the Pipeline?

https://i2.wp.com/www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/rmc/lowres/rmcn70l.jpgWhen 28 Stories for AIDS in Africa inspired me to study medicine, I thought I was brilliant enough to find a cure to HIV. I imagined that state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, combined with the drive of curing my patients, would slip everything into place. I imagined that, like a light bulb, the solution would suddenly be clear. I didn’t want fame and fortune, and I still don’t. I want people to get better.

Soon enough I learned that the solution to HIV/AIDS is less simple than slotting numbers together in a mathematical equation. It’s more complex than the chemistry I devoted my time to both in high school and the beginning of university.

The virus is as intelligent as a technically-dead organism could be. It’s powers of mutation are unrivaled. Its survival mechanisms are cunning. It hides when you are looking for it. It multiplies surreptitiously, destroying the body’s defenses without it realising it. Until it is too late.

https://i1.wp.com/news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/11/20/si-HIV.jpgBefore I understood the virus, I wondered about replacing the entire body’s blood supply in one go – remove all the infected blood at once and replace it with healthy blood. But the virus does not settle simply in the blood. It creates reservoirs in the bone marrow and the spleen. And evidence shows that reservoirs may be established in the kidneys and the brain.

Then the Berlin patient was cured in an unorthodox and dangerous fashion: Leukemia treatment and bone marrow transplant. Although it has revolutionised the field of HIV-research, the results have failed to be duplicated in subsequent patients.

The field is growing and moving. Today I read an article in the Huffinton Post that shows that we are a step closer once more – and once again it is using a cancer treatment. JQ1, an experimental chemoterapeutic drug, is proving an interesting and potentially powerful drug against HIV. Although it hasn’t yet been tested on human subjects, it seems that this drug releases the latent viruses from their reservoir, thus exposing them to destruction by conventional antiretroviral therapy.

Now the question is: how will it fare in human trials? Will the side-effects be as bad as conventional ARVs? Will there be nasty interactions between this drug and ARVs or Tuberculosis drugs? What about psychiatric effects? Renal effects? Will this become a viable and safe treatment? Will we see cures, or just better-managed infections?

What if a patient has a resistant virus? Then it will be of no use that the virus is released from its reservoir, because it won’t be killed by ARVs.

And the big question: Will this drug be accessible to the developing world? Will it be affordable to those patients who live on less than the equivalent of two Dollars a day? Will our governments fund this medication?

I hope so. Deep inside me I can feel a bubble of excitement. Imagine. Just imagine!

https://i2.wp.com/2.bp.blogspot.com/-uk1Lt_WMpJg/UGY4n4dv0AI/AAAAAAAABMI/_BTbj3vDK_w/s200/MedicalMonday+button.jpg

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “Cure for AIDS: In the Pipeline?”

  1. Thanks for posting this! I find it really fascinating that we have gone from discovering antibiotics to figuring out how complex diseases work in the body and finding cures to some of them in such a short amount of time, relatively speaking. That is one of the best things about medicine, to me…the ability to bring some hope to people who are suffering.

  2. That is an interesting approach, and one I hadn’t considered before! Medicine is exciting, and while it seems like a cure should have already been here ages ago, it is amazing to see how much we have learned along the way. I am excited that you have found a passion, and inspiration. You may very well be the one to cure it, someone has to:-)

  3. Ooh, I love reading stuff like this! Probably 70% of the reason I got interested in science/medicine/public health was because of the magnitude of the possibilities! There’s so much for us to discover and the potential for so much collaboration and good, and I love that! Even just thinking about it now makes me jittery.

  4. I find all the new breakthroughs in medicine just amazing! My husband hold a couple of patents, and having gone through the process with him, has just made me appreciate medical technologies all the more. Getting new medical devices, therapies, drugs, etc through the FDA is a no small accomplishment and every new medical advancement is something to get excited over!
    Love seeing you on the Medical Monday grid!

  5. thanks for posting this i am a jamaican and i am doing a class research and this information helped me alot. thank you

  6. Wow what an amazing read. Gives hope for sure! I also enjoyed your comments on the other Medical Monday Blog Hoppers – you have great insight!

  7. I had heard talks about this a few years ago but finding a cure is not as simple as research. By that I mean, you have to think about the business side of this disease. There are huge corporations that are profiting from supplying Antiretrovirals so this really doesn’t give the big guys any incentive to cure it unfortunately.

    1. Well of course, that is why the last paragraph of the post addresses exactly the problem of money as an incentive – whether or not poor patients will have access to it. But just because we live in a money-rushed world, does not mean that we should stop trying to find a cure. My belief is that the cure will come from an academic institution in a resource-poor country, and not from the big guys.

  8. Hey there superb website! Does running a blog similar to this require a great deal of work?
    I’ve virtually no expertise in programming however I was hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyway, if you have any ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share. I know this is off subject nevertheless I simply needed to ask. Appreciate it!

Comments make me happy. Say hi :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s