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Top 5 Contagion&reg News Articles for the Week of July 2, 2017

A look into how health information exchange interventions are beneficial in HIV care; the discovery of 3 mutations that could help the bird flu spread among humans; news about a new patch formulation for the flu vaccine; progress towards an HIV vaccine; and information on an interactive map that visualizes the US HIV epidemic, make up the Top 5 articles for this week.

#5: Health Information Exchange Interventions Beneficial to HIV Care

Using a quasi-experimental, interrupted time-series design, the researchers examined whether the LHIE intervention improved ART use and viral suppression, as well as if it reduced racial/ethnic disparities in these outcomes among HIV-positive patients from a Southern California HIV/AIDS clinic.

The primary outcomes were ART pharmacy fill and HIV viral load laboratory data obtained from the medical records over 3 years. Race/ethnicity and an indicator for the intervention were the main predictors. The analysis was made up of a 3-stage, multivariable logistic regression with generalized estimating equations.

The results of the study showed that the intervention predicted greater odds of ART use and viral suppression in the final models, which included sociodemographic, behavioral, and clinical covariates.

More on health information exchange interventions and HIV care is available, here.

#4: Three Mutations Could Help Bird Flu Spread Among Humans

To effectively spread among humans, the avian virus thus needs to develop specificity to receptors in the human airway.

Yet, although avian H7N9 influenza virus is currently unable to effectively spread between humans, scientists remain concerned that the virus might one day mutate into a form that could easily transmit in this way. Professor Paulson and colleagues therefore conducted a study to investigate which mutations would allow the virus to attach to human cells.

The researchers analyzed mutations in the H7N9 virus, focusing on a gene that codes for one HA protein known as H7. They investigated changes that would alter the amino acid structure of H7 HA, allowing it to switch to recognize receptors in the human airway.

The researchers found that three specific amino acid mutations in H7 HA allowed the virus to more easily bind to human airway cells in the laboratory. These subtle changes in the protein’s structure thus produced virus strains that switched their target from bird cells to human cells.

Read more about how the avian influenza virus could mutate to spread among humans, here.

#3: New Flu Vaccine Patch Proving as Effective as Standard Injection

Although some participants who received the patch reported mild skin reactions such as localized redness or itching, none of the participants reported serious adverse reactions. Participants who received the vaccine via patch or injection had similar antibody responses. More than 70% of those who received the patch preferred that delivery method over the flu shot. The participants who applied the patches to themselves received similar vaccine doses to those whose patches were administered by healthcare workers, showing that the delivery method could eliminate the need for a trip to the doctor’s office.

“This bandage-strip sized patch of painless and dissolvable needles can transform how we get vaccinated,” said NIBIB director Roderic I. Pettigrew, MD, PhD in the press release. “A particularly attractive feature is that this vaccination patch could be delivered in the mail and self-administered. In addition, this technology holds promise for delivering other vaccines in the future.”

Learn more about the flu vaccine patch, here.

#2: HIV Vaccine Moves One Step Closer to Becoming Reality

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology may have found the best delivery mode for a vaccine against HIV. The results of their new study show that “optimizing the mode and timing of vaccine delivery is crucial to inducing a protective immune response in a practical model,” according to a press release on the study.

For their study, published in the journal, Immunity, the scientists found that, “administering the vaccine candidate subcutaneously and increasing the time intervals between immunizations improved the efficacy of the experimental vaccine and reliably induced neutralizing antibodies.” These antibodies are key in promoting an effective immune response as they inactivate an invading virus before it is able to set up shop in the body. According to the press release, these neutralizing antibodies, “have been notoriously difficult to generate for HIV.”

Read more about HIV vaccine, here.

#1: US HIV Epidemic Goes Visual with Interactive Map

HIV surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being used to populate an interactive map, capable of depicting the impact of HIV and mortality in the United States on national, state, and local levels.

The interactive map, AIDSVu, illustrates higher rates of infection and death in Southern States; racial disparities in HIV infection; and a rise in HIV diagnoses among the youth. In addition, according to a press release on the map, “two-thirds of all new HIV diagnoses in 2015 occurred in 2.5% of US counties.”

The South accounts for nearly 37% of the country’s population and more than half of all new diagnoses and deaths among individuals diagnosed with HIV. Five US cities—–all located in the South––had the highest rates of new diagnoses: Miami, FL; Jackson, MS; New Orleans, LA; Baton Rouge, LA; and Atlanta, GA.

Continue reading about the AIDSVu interactive map, here.