HIV Will We Ever beat the Virus

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus which in reality means something than only effects humans, that causes the immune system to not work properly due to the organism(virus) taking over human cells. HIV is part of a group of viruses named retroviruses which have genetic material in the form of RNA. Viruses other than HIV in this group have been found in various numbers of animals. It is understood that the HIV virus has descended from the virus found in monkeys- Simian Immunodeficiency Virus.

There are two types of HIV that are currently recognised which are: HIV1 HIV2, both types of HIV are transmitted either by sexual contact, sharing needles, contaminated blood or from mother to baby via the placenta. Within the HIV1 virus there are many sub-groups, they are known as genetic cousins of each other. HIV1 is highly variable and it mutates regularly which means that there are many strains of the virus, which can be put into two groups, group M and group O. In group M there are currently 10 known genetic distinct sub-types known as A-J which are all found in different countries around the world.

In group O there is another very distinct group of heterogeneous viruses. The main difference between all of the various subtypes is the fact that they all have different genetic compositions. It has been suggested that different subtypes are associated with various modes of transmission. “Subtypes B is generally associated with homosexual contact and intravenous drug used (essentially via Blood) whereas Subtype B and C are associated with heterosexual transmission (via a mucosal route)”.

A laboratory study has shown that subtypes C and E “infect and replicate more efficiently than subtype E because the Langerhans cells which are present in the vaginal mucosa, cervix and also the foreskin but are not present in the wall of the rectum which is why the two subtypes have a higher potential for heterosexual transmission” [source one] Subtype E is known to be more easily spread than any other subtype. E. g. if one person has subtype B and another subtype E if they were to have unprotected sex the likelihood of catching subtype B would be “48% and subtype E would be 69%” [source one].

The various sub types of the virus make it very hard to find a suitable vaccine to prevent and cure the virus. As the virus mutates and evolves many scientists that attempt to find a cure for the terrible virus are finding it very difficult because it mutates quickly. After contracting the Virus there is a window period, within that time if a person has a blood test (Eliza test) to test for HIV the tests will not come up positive as it takes around 1-6 months for the virus to appear in blood tests. However it is still possible to pass the virus to another person within this window period.

Most people that have been infected show no symptoms which means that there are no reliable figures for people carrying the virus within today’s sexually active society. “Official figures in the UK up to July of 1986 suggest that over 4000 people had been, in is it estimated that figures had risen to 30,000 people by November of that year” [Source two]. Although most people suffering from HIV have no symptoms many suffer from short lived illnesses. The most common abnormality in patients is enlarged lymph glands.

Some of the minor infections related to HIV include skin disorders such as seborrhoeic dermatitis. More severe infections include diarrhoea, fever, oral thrush and obvious weight loss. However things such as herpes, shingles, tuberculosis, salmonellosis, shigellosis and in most severe cases HIV can effect the brain, causing neurological cell disorders such as dementia. These infections and diseases are due to the lowered immune system after being invaded by HIV, the body is unable to fight off the most simple of diseases such as the common cold.

In order for HIV to copy its genetic information it has to ‘lock on’ to a CD4 lymphocyte and then its genetic material is absorbed into the cell then it can make a copy of its exact genetic information, which is called a provirus. This is then inserted into the lymphocyte cell using an enzyme called intergrase. The provirus is then put into genetic code or genome by cutting the genome and placing the HIV provirus inside. When HIV copies itself it makes lots of mistakes unlike the cells within humans it is unable to detect the mutation or errors and get rid of them.

Instead they stay within the host, many of these faulty copies are unable to infect other cells and will generally reproduce very slowly, if at all. However some will develop genetic changes which can make them resistant to drugs. Which is why there is combination therapy, so target many different types of the virus, and results show that they have substantially reduced the risk or further development of the virus within the host’s cells and reduce death. The highest results were with a protease inhibitor and an NNRTI.

There are many treatments for HIV in today’s modern society which are being studied so they can help HIV patients to live longer. One of these is gene therapy; this would be used at an early stage of the disease, as it interferes with the process that HIV proteins and all enzymes are all made from. The three ways that gene therapy will work is that it can be used to target the HIV genes within infected cells (anti-viral), by attempting to change uninfected cells to prevent HIV from infecting them(protective) and also to increase the immune system so it has the ability to attack HIV cells.

Some approaches use small molecules called anti-sense oligonucleotides” which blind the RNA strands before they can form the functional proteins. “Other strategy is to use molecules that can detect HIV’s RNA within the infected cells and splice it (cut it up) thus inactivating it” this would be done using Ribozymes as they can simultaneously stop the formation of many of the different sub types of HIV proteins. “Even if the HIV mutates against one splicing site the other ribozyme will still be effective at others”[Source Three].

Also the last strategy involves creating mutant forms of viral proteins which will competes with the real HIV proteins and interfere with the ability of HIV to reproduce. These three types on gene therapy seam to be a very good possibility to help cure HIV, however there are many different problems that could prevent this from going ahead such as how to place the different new genes into the host’s cells. Another main problem would be how to get the genes into main parts of the body that are effected within the virus more severely than other parts.

There could appear to be many unknown side effects of manipulating the body’s cells and the function of vital cells could be damaged making the cons outweigh the cons of the gene therapy. Another way to treat HIV is using drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors which are known to stop HIV from making copies they are called “AZT, ddl, ddC, 3TC, abacavir and d4T” [Source Three] Recent studies in Harvard University have found that monkeys appear to be immune to AIDS, the animals produce a particular protein that naturally blocks the Virus.

Humans cell contain a similar protein but it appears unable to prevent infection. The hope is that they will be able to “take advantage over the monkey’s defences” over the virus. Within the laboratory in which the experiments were done in they eventually narrowed the search down and discovered that the “gene dubbed TRIM5-alpha” produces a protein called “TRIM5 which is among a group of proteins that float within the water cytoplasm of a living cell” [source three]. This research may prove to be useful in the protection and prevention of HIV.

The protein is known to attack the virus in the early stages of its replication. The TRIM5 attaches itself to the outer protein shell of the virus and then destroying it, which is very alike to the method of destruction that the white blood cells use to destroy viruses in any other situation with viruses within the body. “If the TRIM5 protein was to be inserted into the human body it would protect against HIV” [source two] The TRIM5 protein is also found in humans but it is unknown why it does not have the same effect as it does in monkeys.

The Virus that causes AIDS was discovered at the “Institute Pasteur in Paris and it was named the lymphadenopathy associated virus (LAV). Later in 1984 US research workers identified an AIDS as a retrovirus” [Source Five] To cure HIV…… Could this be an open ended sentence forever? Not having found a cure for it yet will we ever? In my opinion their have been some good attempts to help cure and prevent HIV from becoming even more of an issue than it already is.

However I think that we are a long way away from ever finding a cure, if there is even a cure for this terrible virus that has plagued the world for the past known two decades. As a human race we have evolved and technology has evolved along with us and is becoming greater and greater at helping us find cures for many different things. But eventually like HIV, all known diseases and viruses may adapt and mutate, causing our entire big technology world to be inferior to such tiny bacteria. This is a scary thought but it could happen.

HIV mutates and changes all the time, when a cure is ‘found’ it is useless because the virus is one step ahead of us at all times. Maybe the virus will eventually go around into a big circle and start all over again, allowing us to be in the lead but that to me is highly unlikely. I truly think that there won’t ever be a cure for HIV but in the interest of humanity I hope they do find a cure, but then unprotected sex and other things that spread the virus will then be done more freely which will cause other problems.

Meaning we are never actually free of searching for a cure, whenever there is a cure for something people begin to care less as they believe they can ‘rely’ on the cure to keep them healthy. This can be shown by the rates of how many people take the morning after pill to prevent pregnancy and forget about condoms. This shows that people take science for granted and don’t realize how hard it is to make cures for things. Until people realize this no cure will be properly appreciated by everyone and will remain misused because most people have a very relaxed behaviour towards medical issues and diseases.

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