October 22nd, 2007

earth, hhgttg

Not of interest.

HIV Neutralisation?

A couple of non-scientists linked to this with appropriate "OMG" reactions,and I thought 'Wow, looks like a breakthrough'. Amazing scientifically breakthroughs that aren't plastered all over the headlines (or even on BBC Health) worry me. Especially as the paper in question was published in August. (And yes, I went through the BBC archives as well.)

So I went and dug out the article itself on Lancet. I have no idea how much you can see from a non-institution, so I apologise if it's poor. Then I read around. This, I have to emphasise, is the result of Googling by a palaeontologist, so don't take it as a lecture from on high or anything. Wikipedia is a good source for everything, after all.

The article discusses Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) which has been used to fight HIV for years (At least ten of them. Probably more, but I briefly saw the year 1998 mentioned), where antiretrovirals are simply a type of drug used to inhibit retroviruses such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It simply means using a number of drugs to fight HIV, so that immunity to one drug cannot evolve, thanks to simultaneous attacks by another drug.

HIV invades CD4+ cells among others. These are lymphocytes which play a vital role in the human immune system: they activate and direct the action of other immune cells, and thus are important in fighting a whole range of things.

The study in question looked at the long term effects of cART on people with HIV, specifically the CD4 count over years of cART therapy. And their conclusion? CD4 counts continue to increase with years of therapy, although the rate of increase is not as great as in later years. The implication of 'normalising' CD4 countsis only inferred from the increase, and not demonstrated.

THIS IS NOT A CURE.

It's not even new. It doesn't eliminate HIV in the blood stream, it restricts replication and evolution of resistance. It requires the patient to continue to take a cocktail of drugs for years. With all the side effects tied in with them:

The most common side effects are nausea and feeling tired. Side effects are often referred to by the grade of the effect, and the grades range from mild to moderate to severe to life-threatening. For example, it is considered a mild side effect if a person has 2-3 vomiting episodes a day. Life-threatening side effects such as extreme limitations in daily activity and hospitalisation are rare, but are still threats to some.
And let's not forget that most HIV+ people in the world simply don't have access to the drugs in question.

Don't get me wrong, it's good news. It's just not amazing breakthrough type news. And the line about allowing patients to rebuild their immune system to the same levels as the rest of the population. is speculation at best. Mind you, extra credit to Science Daily for using the phrase 'HI-virus'.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled fannish ramblings.