Thursday, Jun. 10, 2010

Fighting AIDS

HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was. Today's challenges lie in studying the molecular mechanisms of HIV/AIDS and in making interventions practical — even where money is tight.

Natural immunity
A tiny fraction of people with untreated HIV never seem to progress to AIDS. These people also tend to carry a gene variant called HLA-B57. Last month, Boston researchers showed that this genetic trait works by helping prime the body's T cells to recognize viral mutations more easily. Figuring out natural immunity could be a step toward a vaccine.

Saving baby
For mother-to-child HIV transmission to be halted, an infant's first antiretroviral dose should come within hours after birth. That's hard for women who deliver far from a clinic. One new solution: a small polyethylene pouch, not unlike a ketchup packet. After giving birth, mom simply pours the contents into her newborn's mouth.