Tag Archives: HIV

Open Source Drugs

15 Mar

The following was written by Jacqueline of Skepchick.org. I absolutely love this concept, as well as her clear and succinct writing style.


Drug discovery is challenging, lengthy, and extraordinarily expensive. All companies focus on making money and drug companies are no different. They spend their research and development budgets focusing on diseases that affect the affluent world population. As a consequence diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis that are abundant in sub-Saharan Africa and India are left unstudied by industry. Despite the omission by drug companies, other efforts are underway to aid in drug discovery for these diseases.

Just to hash out a few details of where the problem arises– the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that 35 countries (30 African and 5 Asian) account for 98% of the malarial related deaths. Similarly, in 2010, 8.8 million people became sick with tuberculosis (TB) of which 82% of the cases lived in 22 TB ridden countries. These diseases do exist in other parts of the world, but result in significantly less deaths.

Despite the lack of interest from drug companies for treating these infectious diseases, other organizations have picked up the slack. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed significant funds to these poverty ridden populations in the form of care, research, and vaccines. Much of their focus is on HIV/AIDS treatment in addition to other conditions including malaria and TB. However, while reading Science I recently came across an open source drug design initiative based out of India.

A few years ago, Samir Brahmachari launched the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) network. The initiative began in 2008 and set out to combat India’s leading cause of death, TB. The initial $12 million of seed money was provided by the Indian government and that has led to 5500 participants in 130 countries. So has this global network of researchers provided any results? Their first goal was to sequence the TB genome and the task was accomplished in a mere four months by 500 volunteers. Since then they utilized this information and have determined two viable drug candidates that are currently being tested. Following the principles of OSDD, the data from their clinical trials are open for all to see. It is too soon to tell if the drugs will be successful, but if so they will be on the market as generic drugs.

This approach could produce affordable health care and treatments for many without.

Science Quickies: Space Trains and Shiny Dinosaurs, Birth Control Myths and HIV vaccines.

11 Mar

Sweet zombie Jesus, we could be building space trains!!! Why, oh why, do we not have space trains yet? They’re trains that send things into goddamn space!!!

Ancient dinosaurs were not only feathered, but shiny! Pigment-containing organelles show that the Microraptor had black iridescent feathers, much like a crow. It also had four wings, and was about the size of a pigeon. I am in favor of bringing these guys back, as it would make feeding birds in the park a lot more entertaining.

A new study shows that in America’s HIV “hot spots,” African-American women testedt five times higher then the national average. The US hot spots were Atlanta, GA, Raleigh-Durham, NC, Washington D.C., Baltimore, MD, Newark, NJ, and New York City, and the tested age range was from 18 to 44.

In light of the recent contraception funding, Heina of Skepchick wrote a great article outlining 7 common birth control and abortion myths.

Scientists, with their admirable persistence, made a huge step forward in HIV vaccine development. Keep it up, darlings!

Checking into a hospital soon? Make sure you go to one whose infection prevention programs are led by a director who is board certified in infection prevention and control, as such hospitals have lower incidences of MRSA infections. This is one of those studies that seems like a no-brainer and waste of time and resources, but it’s often the very obvious studies that are the most cited; A good reminder that we can’t simply assume things. We must have the evidence to back us, even on the obvious things.

Urgent Aid Needed for Myanmar

6 Mar

Medicins San Frontieres/Doctor’s Without Borders recently released a report called “Lives In The Balance,” calling for urgent funding and assistance in helping Myanmar close the devastating gap between people’s need and access to treatment for HIV and TB.

From the their website:
“Tens of thousands of people living with HIV and tuberculosis (TB) in Myanmar are unable to access lifesaving antiretroviral therapy, a dire situation exacerbated by the recent cancellation of a new round of funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.”

New Tuberculosis Center

3 Mar

ASCP Collaborates to Open New TB Testing Center in Swaziland

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To combat the deadly combination of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) decimating its population, a new TB testing center opened on Jan. 26, 2012, in Mbabane, Swaziland. It is a collaboration of ASCP, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), University Research Corporation, and Doctors Without Borders. The facility, with high technology laboratory equipment, access control, and computerized laboratory to match the requirements of the World Health Organization (WHO), is housed within the five-story National Reference Laboratory.

Swaziland has the world’s most severe HIV/AIDS epidemic, affecting 26.3 percent of its adult population between 15 and 29 years old and 15 percent of children under the age of 15. Due to their weakened immune systems, HIV patients are more vulnerable to TB. Health officials estimate 50 percent of Swaziland’s HIV patients also have TB.

“Correct diagnoses for specific types of tuberculosis are critical in order to treat Swazi patients correctly and efficiently, and turn the tide on this devastating epidemic,” said Dr. Blair Holladay, ASCP Executive Vice President. “Erecting the new TB testing facility finally allows for timely testing to assist these patients in need. Since TB—in all its forms—is highly contagious, laboratory professionals in Swaziland also have a much safer environment to conduct the tests and reverse the current paucity in testing.”

Additionally, a recent national survey about drug resistance in Swaziland revealed a high prevalence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB with new cases at 7 percent and re-treatment cases at 33.9 percent. MDR-TB is resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful anti-TB drugs. Affected patients require extensive chemotherapy (up to two years in treatment) with second-line anti-TB drugs, which are more costly and produce more severe drug reactions.

The high prevalence of disease and deaths among adults in their productive working years poses a serious obstacle toward economic improvement for Swaziland. Between 1990 and 2007, the average Swazi life expectancy fell by half in great part due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

To help remedy this situation in 2009, the Government of Swaziland signed the Swaziland Partnership Framework on HIV and AIDS to be undertaken from 2009 to 2013. Established between the U.S. government and the Swazi Government for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programs, the Partnership Framework aims to provide a more sustainable approach to fighting HIV/AIDS and other diseases such as TB. The Framework focuses on five pillars: developing a comprehensive national HIV prevention program; improving the coverage and quality of HIV-related treatment and care; mitigating the impacts of HIV/AIDS with a focus on children; increasing access to high-quality medical care; and building the human and institutional capacity to achieve and sustain these goals.

Click here to read the original article, as well as learn more about ASCP.