TB in Prisons, a cure for HIV, oral tenofovir impact on herpes simplex and more

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Here are some recent new stories and publications of interest:

The spread of TB and latent TB in prisons, where risk of infection is higher than in the general population, can substantially increase overall incidence of the disease. That’s according to systematic review findings by Iacopo Baussano from the University Amedeo Avogadro in Italy and colleagues published in PLoS Medicine this week. “Improvements in prison TB control would not only help to protect prisoners and staff from within-prison spread of TB, but would also reduce national TB burdens,” according to a PLoS press release.

An American patient being treated in Berlin for both Leukemia and HIV received a stem-cell transplant from an individual who was naturally resistant to the virus in 2007. Doctors now declare the procedure cured the patient of both illnesses. The findings appeared in a recent article in the peer-reviewed journal Blood. While the article has created a stir in the HIV community, experts say much more study is needed to determine how it could lead to general HIV therapy. The article, “Evidence for the cure of HIV infection by CCR5 32/ 32 stem cell transplantation,” appears in the December issue of Blood.

Contrary to earlier findings, a new study shows that taking the antiretroviral drug tenofovir as part of an oral HIV treatment regimen does not affect herpes simplex virus (HSV) activity. The study was conducted at the University of Toronto by Darrell Tan, MD, and his colleagues with a group of 40 HIV infected people co-infected with either HSV-1 or HSV-2, and followed herpes activity over 28 days. The data is published in the Jan. 1 issue of AIDS. An earlier trial found that a tenofovir vaginal gel could cut herpes acquisition by approximately 50 percent.

Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John P. Holdren released guidelines Friday for departments and agencies to implement on scientific integrity, in response to an assignment from President Obama to do so in March of last year. The guidelines recommend, for example: shielding scientific data and analysis from inappropriate political influence to grow the foundation of scientific integrity in government; and encouraging the publication and presentation of research findings in scholarly journals or professional meetings in order to promote and facilitate professional development of government scientists and engineers. Some scientist say the guidelines represent a step in the right direction, while other say the 4-page document is a little light on the specifics. 

The Vatican issued a clarification of the statement Pope Benedict XVI made about condoning condom use in certain situations to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in the book Light of the World. “The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought,” according to the statement.

The Malaria Operational Plans for fiscal year (FY) 2011 are now available online. As part of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), the current status of malaria control and prevention for each of the 17 focus countries is reviewed, and challenges in meeting PMI goals plus planned activities for the year are discussed.  PMI was launched in 2005 as a 5-year, $1.2 billion initiative aiming to reduce malaria-related mortality by 50 percent in high-burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The program has been extended through FY14.

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