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Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—March 4, 2018

Stay up-to-date on the latest infectious disease news by checking out our top 5 articles of the week.

We've rounded up our top 5 infectious disease news articles for this past week. Read them all:

#5: Vaginal Microbiome May Influence Effectiveness of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis

Over 1 million women are infected with HIV on an annual basis. In order to reduce this number, more understanding is needed. Even after all of this time, not much is known about the biological mechanisms that lead to HIV acquisition in this population.

This lack of knowledge was addressed in the Tuesday Plenary of the 25th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, during which Nichole Klatt, PhD, from the University of Washington, provided an overview of what is known about vaginal microbial dysbiosis and its association with HIV infection as well as how vaginal bacteria may influence transmission in women.

“Over 50% of new infections occur in women,” Dr. Klatt stressed. “Every minute, 2 women are infected with HIV worldwide, which means that during my 25-minute talk, 50 women might be infected with HIV.”

Read more about the vaginal microbiome and HIV acquisition.

#4: First Tests to Screen for Tick-Borne Parasite in Whole Blood and Plasma Approved by FDA

Two tests able to detect antibodies to Babesia microti (B. microti) in human plasma samples and B. microti DNA in human whole blood samples were just approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The first test, Imugen Babesia microtiArrayed Fluorescent Immunoassay (AFIA) is able to detect the antibodies in human plasma samples, and the Imugen Babesia microtiNucleic Acid Test (NAT) is able to detect B. microti DNA in human whole blood samples. Both tests are "intended to be used as donor screening tests on samples from individual human donors, including volunteer donors of whole blood and blood components, as well as living organ and tissue donors," according to a statement from the FDA.

Read more about the FDA-approved tests.

#3: Trogarzo Approved by FDA For Multidrug-Resistant HIV

A new type of antiretroviral medication for adult patients living with HIV who have not had success with other currently available therapies, including those with multidrug-resistant (MDR) HIV, was just approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The medication, ibalizumab-uiyk (Trogarzo) is made by TaiMed Biologics USA Corp. The medication had been granted fast-track application, priority review, and breakthrough therapy and orphan drug designations.

The approval was based on a clinical trial that evaluated the safety and efficacy of ibalizumab-uiyk in 40 heavily treatment-experienced patients with MDR HIV-1 who continued to have high levels of the virus in their blood, despite using antiretroviral drugs. Several of the trial participants had previously been treated with 10 or more antiretroviral drugs.

Read more about Trogarzo.

#2: Harnessing the Power of International, Interdisciplinary Collaboration on The Quest to Cure HIV

In the opening session of the 25th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Julie M. Overbaugh, PhD, Endowed Chair for Graduate Education at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was bestowed the honor of delivering a lecture in the name of Bernard Fields, PhD, a highly esteemed microbiologist and virologist. Each year, the lecture is presented by a basic scientist recognized for their contributions to the fields of virology as well as viral pathogenesis.

Dr. Overbaugh’s presentation highlighted the work accomplished in the Nairobi Breastfeeding clinical trial, the subsequent research that was inspired by it, and the power of international, interdisciplinary collaboration.

She shared data and examples of how the trial informed studies of interdisciplinary viral and immunological consequences of HIV infection in mother-infant transmission, as well as some of the work that has been done in the field using this reagent in unexpected ways to help advance vaccine studies.

Read more about collaborating to cure HIV.

#1: MSM Found to Underestimate Risk of HIV Infection, Hindering Uptake of PrEP

Although researchers continue to make great strides in the fight against HIV, there are still many obstacles to overcome in terms of prevention. One such obstacle is accurate HIV risk perception among men who have sex with men (MSM), a population that accounts for 70% of new HIV infections in the United States.

In an oral abstract session at the 25th Conference for Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) held in Boston, Massachusetts, Jill Blumenthal, MD, associate clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, discussed how inaccurate HIV risk perception by MSM remains an obstacle to prevention, despite greater access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

To address this issue, Dr. Blumenthal and her team studied whether or not providing information on their risk of contracting HIV to MSM would increase their uptake of PrEP. The team tested this hypothesis in a randomized controlled trial dubbed, PrEP Accessibility Research and Evaluation 2, or PrEPARE2, which enrolled 171 MSM participants, all recruited from HIV testing sites.

For the study, participants were given a baseline survey which collected information such as demographics, risk behaviors, and the participant’s perception of their risk of contracting HIV. The results of the survey generated 2 risk scores: a self-perceived risk (SPR) score, which was based on 3 risk perception questions, and an HIV risk score (CalcR) which would calculate an individual’s estimated 1-year risk of becoming infected with HIV compared with the average risk among MSM. The CalcR score was “based on reported condomless anal sex acts, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and needle-sharing events,” according to the study abstract. Participants were categorized as either low, medium, high, or very high risk for HIV, based on these scores.

Read more about perceived risk among MSM.