Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—January 7, 2018


In case you missed them, we've compiled the top 5 articles from this past week.

#5 Cancer-Fighting Virus May Also Be Able to Destroy Latent HIV-Infected Cells

New research coming from Canada suggests that a viral therapy developed to target cancer cells may have another benefit: destroying HIV-infected cells.

Canadian investigators have been experimenting with using the Maraba virus, known as MG1, to destroy cancer cells. The virus is able to attack cancer cells that are vulnerable due to defective interferon signaling.

HIV-infected cells also have impaired interferon signaling, Jonathan Angel, MD, FRCPC, senior scientist and infectious disease physician at The Ottawa Hospital, told our sister publication MD Magazine. Knowing this, Dr. Angel wondered if HIV cells would be similarly susceptible to a virus like MG1.

Read more here.

#4: FDA Acknowledges Hospital Mattresses as Hotbed for Germs, Releases Recommendations

Health care facilities everywhere have been ramping up their disinfection practices in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. However, when it comes to hospital mattresses, one of the biggest vectors for spreading deadly bugs, efforts are still falling short.

With health care workers using chemicals that are intended for dry surfaces, the mattresses are harboring pathogens such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff), and, as Edmond A. Hooker, MD, DrPH, professor in the Department of Health Administration at Xavier University, pointed out at the 5th Annual International C. diff Awareness & Health Expo, regulatory agencies seem to have “turned a blind eye” to the issue.

Until now.

You can read more about the recommendations, here.

#3: Gardnerella Bacteremia Reported in HIV-Positive Male

In a case study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, lead investigator, Prerana Bhatia, MD, University of California San Diego Medical School in San Diego California, and her colleagues report on a case of Gardnerella bacteremia in an HIV-positive male following the placement of a urinary catheter.

Gardnerella vaginalis is a gram-positive, rod-shaped anaerobic bacterium that can form biofilms and adhere to epithelial cells. According to the authors, Gardnerella is commonly found in the genitourinary tract of both women and men. Transmission of Gardnerella is not thought to occur through sex and as such, it is not considered a sexually-transmitted infection. Usually, Gardnerella is associated with bacterial vaginosis, an easily treated condition. However, there have been reports, mostly in women, where Gardnerella has caused severe infections, such as bacteremia or brain abscesses.

Read more about Gardnerella here.

#2: Here’s How Antibiotics Used to Treat C. diff Also Damage the Microbiome

Dr. Richard Vickers, chief scientific officer of R&D at Summit Therapeutics, explains how antibiotics used to treat C. diff also damage the microbiome.

Interview Transcript (modified slightly for readability):

“The antibiotics we use to treat Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) also cause what we might describe as collateral damage to the gut microbiome. We know the gut microbiome, that community of bacteria that live within our gastrointestinal tract, is absolutely fundamental to the pathogenesis of C. diff infection. And so, if it’s in a normal, healthy state, then that protects us from C. difficile developing…”

You can read the rest of the transcript or view the interview clip, here.

#1: Weekly HIV Treatment Is on The Horizon

Changes abound for HIV treatment options around the world. With the approval of a 2-drug regimen, and studies showing that 4-day antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens are just as effective as 7-day regimens, patients living with HIV will soon be able to leave behind the mountains of pills they are required to consume every day. Indeed, investigators from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), and Lyndra, have developed a drug capsule that could drastically pare down ART to an easier-to-adhere-to weekly regimen.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its “Dear Colleague” letter in September 2017, stating that, “when ART results in viral suppression, defined as less than 200 copies/ml or undetectable levels, it prevents sexual HIV transmission,” it spurred the launch of the “Undetectable=Untransmissable” campaign, which champions adherence to an appropriate ART regimen to hit and maintain viral suppression to stop the spread of the disease to others. Help for adherence may soon come in the form a weekly drug delivery capsule.

According to a press release on the MITBWH research, “The new capsule is designed so that patients can take it just once a week, and the drug will release gradually throughout the week. This type of delivery system could not only improve patients' adherence to their treatment schedule but also be used by people at risk of HIV exposure to help prevent them from becoming infected.”

The invention has been dubbed a “pillbox in a capsule.” Originally developed in 2016, the device “consists of a star-shaped structure with 6 arms that can be loaded with drugs, folded inward, and encased in a smooth coating. After the capsule is swallowed, the arms unfold and gradually release their cargo,” according to the press release. A previous study of the capsule using the malaria drug ivermectin proved that it could remain in the stomach up to 2 weeks, gradually releasing the drug during this time. Armed with this knowledge, the researchers set their sights on adapting the capsule to be able to deliver HIV medications.

Read the rest of this week’s top article, here.

Feature Picture Source: jfcherry / flickr / Creative Commons.

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