There has been a new discovery in the prevention of HIV by injection, a new research study shows. People who are at high risk for contracting the HIV virus may now be able to be protected by taking a shot every 1-3 months. Twelve monkeys were used in the first round of testing. Six of the monkeys were given the GSK744 prevention drug and the other six, in the controlled group, a placebo. Both groups were then injected with a hybrid of the simian and human AIDS-causing viruses once a week for eight weeks, inserted into the animal’s rectum.
The GSK744 drug was given to the first set of monkeys twice during the testing period. The results were that every monkey in the controlled group became infected with the HIV virus, but the other six that were given the GSK744 drug remained protected. A second experiment showed that just one single dose of the drug gave the monkeys a 5-10 week protection period. Because humans’ metabolism would break down the drug much slower than in macaques, David Ho (a virologist at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York), believes that the GSK744 drug could last up to three months.
GSK744 is a highly potent match for the pill that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved last year for HIV treatment called Tivicay. The researchers wanted something more effective than relying on people to take a pill daily for prevention. The study covers those in the high-risk public such as intravenous drug users, those dwelling in sub-Saharan Africa, and men that have sex with other men.
AIDS expert Dr. Robert Grant said, “This is the most exciting innovation in the field of HIV prevention that I’ve heard recently.” It is a major breakthrough for the prevention of contracting the deadly HIV virus since there is no vaccine or cure. This, based on the premise that people are more likely to get an injection every three months than be religious in taking a pill every single day. To date, condoms are still the leading form of prevention, both from the AIDS virus and other sexually transmitted diseases. Knowing that not everyone uses condoms faithfully, public health officials saw the importance to seek other avenues of prevention.
Another study using macaques was done, this time injecting the monkeys with the HIV virus into the vaginal cavity to see if the GSK744 drug would also be effective isolating and warding off the infection in that area of the body. Director of the U.S. National Center for HIV/AIDS, Johnathon Mermin, says that the results of those tests are also being presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections this week. The tests proved positive and Mermin says that human testing should get started.
Though pills can be as effective, not everyone takes them faithfully. Researches had to find a way to turn the now used Tivicay into a liquid. GSK744 is not soluble in water so had to be broken down and then crystallized into nanoparticles which then would suspend in solution.
This miraculous breakthrough in the prevention of contracting the HIV virus looks to be steps away from human testing. It could prove to be the very next best thing to a cure.
By Derik L. Bradshaw