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UMN, UNMC research shows persistent HIV replication is associated with lower drug concentrations in lymphatic tissues

Drugs used to treat HIV penetrate poorly into lymphatic tissues where most HIV replication takes place and there is persistent low-level virus replication in these tissues according to research from the University of Minnesota and University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“We know the drugs we use today are effective because our patients are doing better and living longer, but these drugs cannot cure the infection,” said Timothy Schacker, M.D., director of the Program in HIV Medicine at the University of Minnesota. “We wanted to know why and thought that maybe the drugs were not getting into the tissues where most virus replication is happening.”

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New anti-HIV drug target identified by University of Minnesota researchers

University of Minnesota researchers have discovered a first-of-its-kind series of compounds possessing anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) activity. The compounds present a new target for potential HIV drug development and future treatment options.

Complete findings are printed in today’s issue of The Journal of Virology.

The compounds, known as ribonucleoside analogs 8-azaadenosine, formycin A, 3-deazauridine, 5-fluorocytidine and 2’-C-methylcytidine, were found to stop the replication and spread of HIV by blocking HIV DNA synthesis or by inducing lethal mutagenesis.

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A look forward on World AIDS Day 2013

Editor’s note: The following was adapted from a Program in Human Sexuality email authored by Eli Coleman to honor World AIDS Day 2013.

Medical advances, improved access to care, prevention initiatives, and our nation’s aspiration of an AIDS-free generation are all good signs, but as a culture we will need to shift our perspective to stop the spread of HIV.

Over the last 30 years, where have we failed?

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HIV protein may impact neurocognitive impairment in infected patients

A protein shed by HIV-infected brain cells alters synaptic connections between networks of nerve cells, according to new research out of the University of Minnesota. The findings could explain why nearly half of all patients infected with the AIDS virus experience some level of neurocognitive impairment.

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New grant will allow U of M researchers to advance new diagnosis & treatment methods for meningitis

Researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine have received a $3.2 million grant to examine new cost-effective approaches for diagnosing and treating meningitis. The University will partner with Uganda’s Makerere University on the effort.

In the first of two programs supported by the new grant, University of Minnesota researchers will employ a tiered approach to diagnosing meningitis, employing a strategic approach that eliminates a full battery of testing when a more limited panel of stepwise testing can confirm infection.  The project will also explore new diagnostic tests for meningitis due to tuberculosis (TB).

The grant will also support a new clinical trial to test the antifungal properties of sertraline (Zoloft), an antidepressant with possible anti-fungal properties in mouse models. Because Zoloft went off patent in 2006, the medication could present a cheaper alternative in the fight against cryptococcal meningitis.

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U of M expert perspective: Access to treatment is critical to the decline in HIV infection rates

Worldwide HIV infection rates have fallen by a third since 2001 according to new data  released earlier this week by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

According to the report, 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2011, down from 3.2 million in 2001. More specifically, new HIV infection rates for children saw a reduction of 52 percent since 2001, while  new infections among adults and children combined fell 33 percent in the same time period.

AIDS-related deaths have also dropped 30 percent from 2005, their highest point on record.

UNAIDS cites an increase in domestic HIV and AIDS-related spending on research, treatment and prevention efforts, as well as more effective treatment options as difference makers behind the decline in new infections.

“I think the decline in new HIV infections speaks to the tremendous success of programs like the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and others that have  made therapy available worldwide to many people with HIV,” said University of Minnesota infectious disease expert Timothy Schacker, M.D., a specialist in HIV and AIDS-related treatment and research .  “When patients receive treatment for their infection they’re less likely to pass the virus on to sexual partners or children during birth.  The latest report by UNAIDS is excellent news, but it also highlights all of the work that lies ahead.”

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