18 May, 2011

Hope for HIV Vaccine; Ebola Strikes in Uganda

HIV/AIDS Vaccine Shows Promise
A new HIV/AIDS vaccine may be in the works as research at an Oregon University has shown to prevent virus replication in monkeys.

Louis Picker, a researcher at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), specifically in the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) has been working on developing a HIV/AIDS vaccine from genetically modified cytomegalovirus (CMV).  CMV is a member of the Herpesviridae family and is most commonly associated with salivary glands in the body. CMV was used in this vaccine development because most people are already infected with CMV, although they show little to no symptoms. In addition, once an individual is infected with CMV they carry the virus for the rest of the life.

This new vaccine was tested on rhesus macaque monkeys at Oregon National Primate Research Center in Beaverton, Oregon. All of the moneys were infected with Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), the monkey form of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This vaccine prevented infection in thirteen of the twenty-four monkeys who were originally infected with SIV for more than one year. These thirteen monkeys’ bodies controlled the replication of SIV to the point that highly sensitive tests could not find any traces of the virus.

These results are extremely promising and hopeful for developing a vaccine for humans. The next step for Dr. Picker and his team will be to develop the current vaccine for human testing.  If successful, this vaccine could prevent thousands of people in the United States from being infected each year.

Ebola Hits Uganda
Last week, a twelve-year old girl from Luwero died in the Bombo Military Hospital about 60 kilometers outside of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, from the deadly Ebola virus. Ebola was confirmed only after the girl’s blood sample tested positive for Ebola at the CDC in Atlanta.

Ebola virus is a viral genus in the Filoviridae family that causes Ebola hemorrhagic fever, which presents itself in patients by sudden symptoms of fever, malaise, muscle pain, headache, and pharynx inflammation. Rashes, red eyes, hiccups, and internal and external bleeding are also common in those suffering from Ebola.  There are four types that affect humans: Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, Ebola-Ivory Coast and Ebola-Bundibugyo virus. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Ebola and the fatality rate is about 85%.

Uganda’s last outbreak of Ebola occurred in 2007, but wasn’t officially declared until February 20, 2008. There were 148 people ill and 37 of them died. In hopes of preventing a similar situation, nearly 40 people who may have been exposed to the young girl who died have been quarantined and monitored for any early Ebola symptoms. Government officials have said visitors to Uganda do not need to worry about possible contact with the virus since these people were quarantined early.

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