HIV therapy may lose its effectiveness, study says

A report in Epidemics reveals that resistance to ART therapy may lead to an increase in the number of people suffering from HIV

EpidemicsAn estimated 33.3 million people worldwide are living with HIV or AIDS, according to the World Health Organization. Although many treatments to control HIV symptoms exist, new research suggests that some of these may need to be reassessed.

This article, “Nested model reveals potential amplification of an HIV epidemic due to drug resistance,” appears in Epidemics, a journal published by Elsevier.[note color="#f1f9fc" position="left" margin=10]Robert A Saenz, PhD
[/note][note color="#f1f9fc" position="left" margin=10]Sebastian Bonhoeffer, PhD[/note]

The authors are Dr. Roberto A. Saenz and Dr. Sebastian Bonhoeffer of the University of Zurich Institute for Integrative Biology. Dr. Bonhoffer is a Full Professor of Theoretical Biology. Dr. Saenz is a postdoc specializing in the study of infectious disease dynamics via mathematical modeling, and currently an Associate Professor at the University of Colima in Mexico.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is currently the most efficient method to control the spread of human immunodeficiency virus and is recommended as the key treatment for HIV/AIDS by a number of leading health associations.

ART involves a regimen of drugs that that inhibit viral enzymes in order to restrain the growth and reproduction of HIV. This decreases the amount of HIV in the body and helps rebuild the immune system.

However, HIV is constantly adapting as a virus, and therefore drug-resistant strains begin to emerge, reducing the effectiveness of ART. The ineffectiveness may also be due to incorrect use of ART, promoting the growth of drug-resistant HIV strains; for example, when a patient fails to complete a course of ART, the virus is allowed to continue replication, whereby mutant drug-resistant strains may emerge and be selected.

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World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year. Organizations worldwide use it as an opportunity to raise awareness of HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and commemorate those who have died. First held in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

Results from the study inEpidemicsshow that in some circumstances, as the number of cases using ART increases, so does the number of individuals who suffer from HIV (due to the emergence of drug resistance and not simply because of the longer life expectancy of a treated person).

The researchers conclude that a larger focus on developing methods for reducing drug resistance may be more beneficial than increasing the number of patients who are treated using ART.

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