Australian Experimental HIV Treatment Vaccine Restricts Viral Levels in HIV-Positive People, Study Says
Australian biotech company Virax's experimental HIV treatment vaccine is effective at reducing viral levels in HIV-positive patients by strengthening the immune system, according to findings announced on Thursday at the 11th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in San Francisco, the Australian reports. Researchers from the Australian National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research and colleagues injected 35 people, each of whom had recently become HIV-positive, with three different vaccines, one of which was Virax's VIR201. Participants in each group received injections at the start of the trial and at weeks four and 12. After receiving the injections, the 12 people who received VIR201 had lower HIV levels than the other trial participants, the researchers said (Pirani, Australian, 2/13). Patients receiving VIR201 had viral loads six times lower than those of the individuals who were given the placebo injections (Kelly, Brisbane Courier-Mail, 2/13). According to the Australian, the participants who received VIR201 experienced no adverse side effects. Current drugs available to treat HIV are "incredibly effective" but are "associated over long-term use with a number of hard-to-manage side effects," Sean Emery, an associate professor at the Australian National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, said (Australian, 2/13). "This is moving from the concept of treating HIV with [antiretrovirals] to the concept of treating someone who is HIV-positive with a vaccine that will stimulate the immune system to control the virus," Steve Wesselingh, director of Melbourne's Burnet Institute, said, adding, "The benefit to patients is they will either be able to take fewer drugs or no drugs at all." Researchers from the University of New South Wales who are also overseeing the trials said that the results on VIR201 are preliminary (Kelly, Melbourne Herald-Sun, 2/13).
Marijuana and HIV-Related Polyneuropathy
Smoking marijuana may relieve diffuse nerve pain, or polyneuropathy, in HIV-positive people, according to findings announced at the conference on Wednesday, Reuters Health reports. Cheryl Jay of the University of California-San Francisco and colleagues administered three marijuana cigarettes each day for seven days to 16 HIV-positive people with polyneuropathy. The group of patients included 14 men, had an average age of 43 and had experienced neuropathy for an average of six years. All of the participants reported previous experience using marijuana but had not used marijuana for at least 30 days prior to the trial. Researchers assessed the effectiveness of marijuana in relieving pain on a zero to 100 visual scale. The researchers hoped to see average daily pain reductions of 30%, which is "considered a clinically meaningful amount of pain relief," Jay said. The researchers found that average pain scores dropped from 47 at the start of the study to 20 at the end of the seven-day period. Twelve of the 16 participants achieved the 30% pain reduction goal, Jay said. The researchers have enrolled 20 out of 50 patients needed for a new randomized study comparing patients who receive marijuana to those who receive a placebo (Reuters Health, 2/12).