This Week In HIV Research


This Week in HIV Research: "Can Opener" Molecule Exposes HIV, and How Much Does HIV Age You?

May 8, 2015

This week we look at a mimetic molecule that may make HIV vulnerable to antibody response. We examine the association between HIV and new artery plaque formation. And we look at a study that may partially explain how much HIV ages a person. Those studies, as well as several other interesting developments. To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!


"Can Opener" Molecule Makes HIV Vulnerable to Attack

Researchers in Canada have identified a previously developed molecule, JP-III-48, which mimics CD4 protein, thereby forcing HIV to open up and expose parts that are vulnerable to antibody response. The researchers tested the molecule in HIV-infected blood, and look to move forward with testing in monkeys, with hopes that JP-III-48 could become a part of a vaccine or shock-and-kill treatment.



HIV Infection and Low CD4 Count Associated With Hardening of Arteries

Individuals living with HIV were found to have a 61% greater risk of developing new artery plaque, regardless of viral load, than those who were HIV negative, according to a study in the United States. Moreover, smoking increased the risk of new plaque accumulation by 42%. However, those with a CD4 count above 500 had a plaque risk similar to HIV-negative controls.

The Association Between Alcohol Consumption and Condom Use: Considering Correlates of HIV Risk Among Black Men Who Have Sex With Men

As black men who have sex with men (MSM ) are disproportionately at higher risk for HIV, researchers in California and Tennessee sought to examine the risk factors among this community, including the complicated association between alcohol and condom use. While black MSM are not unique in their sexual or substance-use behaviors, several factors may explain the motivation for alcohol use during sex, including, "binge drinking, sex-related alcohol expectancies, personality traits, partner characteristics and bisexual behavior," according to the study.

In the Clinic

HIV's Effect on Inflammation May Cause Increases in Age-Related Changes

For people living with HIV whose viral load was detectable (above 50 copies/mL), researchers observed levels of inflammation biomarkers that were similar to HIV-negative controls aged 12 years older. For those whose viral load was undetectable (below 50 copies/mL), the levels were similar to HIV-negative controls aged 4 years older. The findings may partially explain the increase of aging-related diseases in individuals living with HIV.

A Better Screening Tool for HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders: Is It What Clinicians Need?

Because the prevalence of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) is estimated to be 30% to 50%, researchers in Canada and the United States analyzed whether applying a stronger scoring methodology (Rasch analysis) to the Montreal cognitive assessment (MoCA) would improve accuracy of HAND diagnoses. Overall, applying Rasch analysis improved the accuracy of MoCA to 79%, and, "demonstrates that cognition can be measured as a unidimensional construct in HIV," the researchers concluded.


Taking PrEP May Initially Decrease Bone Mineral Density

Taking tenofovir/emtricitabine (Truvada) as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) may lead to slight bone mineral density (BMD) decrease during the first 24 weeks, according to researchers in California. Looking at a subgroup of 498 participants, the researchers found a modest but statistically significant decrease of 0.91% in the spine and 0.61% in the hip, for patients taking tenofovir/emtricitabine versus those taking a placebo. However, after 24 weeks, BMD tended to be more stable, and the researchers concluded that the slight initial decrease in BMD did not outweigh the prevention of HIV, which requires antiretroviral therapy that is associated with much higher BMD loss.

Are Scare Tactics Off the Table for Public Health Campaigns Targeting HIV?

"There's a reason we see public health turning to fear. We live in a culture that bombards people with incentives to consume products that are clearly unhealthy. It is a duty of public health to sound a meaningful warning," says Amy L. Fairchild, Ph.D., M.P.H., who's one of the authors of a new paper examining New York City's experience with fear-based public health campaigns.

Permanent Attachment of Proteins to Nanoparticles for Potential HIV Vaccine Therapy

Scientists at the University of Buffalo have developed a method to attach proteins to nanoparticles, which could aid in the development of a successful HIV vaccine. "While nanoparticle-based delivery of proteins to areas of interest such as tumors is not uncommon, this method is a significant improvement from existing technology, due to the 'velcro' chemistry that tightly binds the proteins to the nanoparticles," according to Rukmani Sridharan of

Hepatitis C

Another Study Confirms Detrimental Effects of Delaying Hepatitis C Treatment

Delaying treatment of hepatitis C could lead to advanced liver disease, lower treatment effectiveness and increased risk of clinical events and death, according to a study presented at the 2015 European Association for the Study of the Liver, in Vienna, Austria.


Indiana HIV Outbreak Should Inspire Long-Term Changes

Scott County in Indiana, which historically saw about five HIV infections a year, saw 130 new infections just within the past four months. The main cause was identified as needle sharing to inject the painkiller oxymorphone (Opana), and the state authorized a needle exchange program in early April 2015. However, "Given the now substantial population of people with HIV in the area and the potential for sexual transmission from drug users, a more long-term needle exchange programme integrated with HIV testing services and other harm-reduction strategies should be considered," writes The Lancet.

Is there a development this week in HIV research that you think we missed? Send us a tip!

Warren Tong is the senior science editor for and

Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.

Copyright © 2015 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

This article was provided by TheBodyPRO.


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