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News Flashes

October 2001


Hepatitis

Giving Interferon Early: An Improved HCV Treatment?

According to the CDC, approximately 6,500 people in the United States are infected with Hepatitis C every year and 8,000-10,000 die annually. A new study that will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine in November states that treatment with interferon alfa-2b soon after infection may be an effective anti-HCV therapy. In the study, 42 of 453 newly infected patients received the full six months of interferon treatment and became virus-free and remained so after therapy termination. After 24 weeks of treatment, virus was undetectable in 42 out of 43 patients. Side effects include muscle and joint aches, fever, headache, and sometimes depression or a reduction in white blood cell count. The six-month treatment costs $6,000. (Washington Post, 10/02/01)


New Treatment Regimen for Hepatitis C

A new study has shown that treating HCV with peginterferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin is more effective than treating with interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin. The study measured the sustained virological response rate (SVR) and among genotype 1 HCV-infected individuals found a SVR of 42% for patients on the new treatment regimen compared to a SVR of 33% among patients on the old drug regimen. The new treatment regimen consists of 1.5 mg/kg peginterferon (PEG-Intron, Schering Corp) subcutaneously once a week and 800 mg oral ribavirin (Rebetol, Schering Corp) daily for 48 weeks. Oral ribavirin (Rebetol) is also available separately. (Lancet 2001; 358:958-65)

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HIV

Genetic Variation and HIV Progression

In a study of 850 HIV-positive people, researchers found a genetic variation that may be linked to the difference in progression time from initial HIV infection to full-blown AIDS. The gene is associated with the HLA locus (see main article) and is called Px, and a certain variation in this gene appeared to accelerate the onset of full-blown AIDS to 4-5 years. The 12% of patients in this study who had the genetic variation experienced full blown AIDS about 7 years post-infection compared to those without the variation who progressed to AIDS 11-12 years post-infection. (NEJM 2001;344:1668-1675)


Possible New Vaccine Trials

Both the NIH and the U.S. military have plans to begin phase III efficacy trials of virtually identical HIV vaccines. The vaccines consist of two parts: the first is the "prime" dose that consists of HIV genes in a canarypox vector and to trigger the immune system to produce CTLs directed against HIV infected cells. The second part of the vaccine is genetically engineered gp120 used to trigger the immune system to produce antibodies that protect cells from becoming infected in the beginning. Phase II trials, however, have shown that approximately 30% of people develop the CTL response the vaccine aims to produce. This has caused controversy as to whether the phase III trials should proceed. Some scientists doubt the scientific basis of this trial while others have taken the stance that 30% efficacy is better than none. (Science, 14 September 2001; 293: 1973)


Mortality Due to HIV Drops

According to a CDC release entitled "Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2000," the percentage of deaths due to HIV declined 3.7% in 2000. This is the fifth year in a row that deaths due to HIV have declined, although HIV remains the leading cause of death for all races in the 25 to 44 year-old age group. The full report is available online at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/releases/01news/mort2k.htm. (CDC Release, 10/10/01)


Abused Women at Higher Risk for HIV Infection

According to a new report from the Alan Guttmacher Institute's Family Planning Perspectives, women who experienced various "household dysfunctions," including abuse, as children are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors putting them at higher risk for contracting HIV. The study looked at how any one of seven "household dysfunctions" women experienced in childhood correlated with having more than 30 sexual partners, having had sexual intercourse before the age of 16, and perceiving oneself as at risk for HIV infection. Findings correlated the household dysfunctions with increased risk for infection with HIV, indicating a long-term effect of childhood experiences on sexual behavior. (Family Planning Perspectives, September/October 2001)


Terrorist Attacks Affect Prisons

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 stock prices of private prison companies sky rocketed in expectation of an increasing number of detainees. Coincidentally, the Federal Bureau of Prisons let out requests for bids for two prisons to hold criminal aliens in Georgia. This contract is the largest award this year from the BOP with a requests for three more bids early next year for prisons in the Southwest deserts for over 1,500 detainees. Additionally, private prisons are looking to benefit from an expected Supreme Court ruling that would make it illegal for prisoners to sue private prisons for civil rights violations. In the wake of the attacks, private prisons are benefitting. (Tharp, New York Post, 10/4/01)


Back to the HEPP News October 2001 contents page.




  
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This article was provided by Brown Medical School. It is a part of the publication HEPP News.
 

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