Health25 Sep 2009 09:10 am
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Health, is coming to stores on October 16! (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As well as continuing to expand on posts from the General Edition, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from the Modern Culture devotional. Today’s entry on “AIDS” is from the “Sexuality and Reproduction” section of the Health edition.
On September 19, 2009, scientists from the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) announced that they have isolated two antibodies (referred to as RV 144) that kill the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a discovery that is hoped will pave the way for the development of a vaccine against the virus that causes Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is an infectious disease of the immune system that progressively diminishes its ability to ward off infections. HIV is transmitted when a mucous membrane or the bloodstream of an uninfected person comes into contact with the bodily fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk) of someone infected with the virus. Thus, HIV can be passed through anal, vaginal, or oral sex, blood transfusion and contaminated hypodermic needles. Moreover, HIV can be transmitted between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
AIDS is now considered a pandemic: in 2007, it was estimated that 33.2 million people were infected with the disease worldwide, and that AIDS led to the deaths of 2.1 million people, including 330,000 children (over 75% of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa alone). The search for an HIV vaccine has been in the works since 1984, when researchers discovered that the HIV virus caused AIDS. To the frustration of scientists, these efforts had been largely unsuccessful, with some 95 failed research trials worldwide preceding IAVI’s recent breakthrough. According to IAVI, developing an effective vaccine against HIV has been uniquely challenging for researchers, to say the least; it has been described as the “most mutable pathogen” ever encountered by modern science.
RV 144 is actually the combination of two failed vaccines (Alvac-HIV and AIDSVAX), and attacks the HIV virus in two ways: it creates antibodies to attack the virus and also boosted the body’s response time to alert white blood cells to attack the virus. Unfortunately, trials of RV 144 have only demonstrated its efficacy with respect to HIV types B/E (the most common subtypes of the virus in Thailand and the United States). Moreover, IAVI scientists urge cautious optimism, noting that RV 144 is at best a stepping-stone towards the development of the vaccine.
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