May 27, 2016
This week, a new synthetic molecule shows potential for the development of a new fusion inhibitor, a class of HIV antiretrovirals that currently has only one approved drug. Another study highlights the increase of hepatitis C-related deaths over the past decade, while HIV-related deaths have gone down. To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!
Researchers in China engineered a lipopeptide they call LP-11 that inhibits drug-resistant mutations of HIV, according to a recent report in AIDS. The study involved synthesizing the peptide in the laboratory and testing its anti-HIV properties on rats. Whether LP-11 is active and safe in humans has not been established.
The antiretroviral activity of this molecule is based on inhibiting the fusion of the virus with the infected cell. This quality forms the basis for fusion inhibitors. LP-11 appears to prevent penetration of HIV into the cell, even if the particular mutation of HIV is resistant against the only fusion inhibitor currently approved, T20.
In addition to its activity against HIV mutations, this synthetic peptide offers a relatively long half-life and good stability at high temperatures and humidity, the study says. Its authors therefore believe that "LP-11 has high potential for clinical development."
Between 2003 and 2013 deaths from hepatitis C (HCV) increased by about 6% annually on average in the U.S., a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases showed. By comparison, during the same period HIV-related deaths declined by more than 41%, deaths from pneumococcal disease decreased by 31% and tuberculosis (TB)-related deaths were about 28% lower. By 2013, the majority of those dying from HCV (51%) were 55-64 years old. The data were collected from death certificates in the national multiple-cause-of-death database.
The decline in mortality from HIV, pneumococcal disease and TB was "likely due to implementation of effective public health programs," the study authors believe. One explanation for the increase in HCV mortality they cite is a 2012 review of studies regarding real-world hepatitis C treatment that found only 19% of HCV-infected patients and 16% of those coinfected with HIV and HCV were actually treated for HCV. Because other studies have shown that HCV is often not listed as a cause of death even when there are indications of liver disease and previous HCV infection, these data probably underreport HCV mortality, the researchers conclude.
Barbara Jungwirth is a freelance writer and translator based in New York.
Follow Barbara on Twitter: @reliabletran.
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