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Experimental HIV vaccine to be tested on humans next year

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An experimental HIV vaccine — which is safely used to protect animals from dozens of strains of HIV and triggered strong immune responses in healthy adults and monkeys — will soon be tested on humans, researchers said.

Researchers say the vaccine targets a vulnerable part of the virus that causes AIDS and triggers antibody production in mice, guinea pigs, and monkeys.

Scientists are making refinements to the vaccine, such as boosting its potency to produce a version suitable for testing in people.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Vaccine Research Center hope to start a human trial of the vaccine next year. They say it also protected two-thirds of monkeys against an HIV-like virus.

Though results of animal studies are not always the same in humans, researchers are encouraged by this early-stage study, which included nearly 400 healthy people.

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For their next step, they are launching a new vaccine trial that will include 2,600 women in southern Africa who are at risk of HIV infection. The experimental HIV-1 vaccine is one of five that have progressed to tests of effectiveness in humans.

While previous experimental HIV-1 vaccines have usually been limited to specific regions of the world, this vaccine combines different HIV viruses. The aim is to trigger immune responses against a wide variety of HIV strains, according to authors of the study published in The Lancet medical journal.

“These results should be interpreted cautiously,” study leader Dr Dan Barouch said in a journal news release, adding,” The challenges in the development of an HIV vaccine are unprecedented, and the ability to induce HIV-specific immune responses does not necessarily indicate that a vaccine will protect humans from HIV infection.”

Barouch is director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and also a professor at Harvard Medical School.

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Regular physical activity may reduce heart attack risk even in highly polluted areas

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Regular physical activity may reduce the risk of heart attack, even in areas with moderate-to-high levels of traffic pollution, a study has claimed.

Higher levels of pollution were associated with more heart attacks, however, the risk was lower among those who were physically active, the researchers found in the study published in the Journal of the American Heart.

“While exercise is known to reduce cardiovascular disease risk; pollution can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease,” said lead author Nadine Kubesch from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

“Currently there is little data on whether poor air quality cancels out the protective benefits of physical activity in preventing heart attacks,” Kubesch added.

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Researchers in Denmark, Germany and Spain evaluated outdoor physical activity levels (sports, cycling, walking and gardening) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2 pollutant generated by traffic) exposure in 51,868 adults, aged 50-65.

Over a 17.7-year period, there were 2,936 first heart attacks and 324 recurrent heart attacks.

Moderate cycling for four or more hours per week cut risk for recurrent heart attack by 31 per cent; and there was a 58 per cent reduction when all four types of physical activity (together totalling four hours per week or more) were combined, regardless of air quality.

Those who participated in sports had a 15 per cent lower rate of initial heart attacks and there was a 9 per cent risk reduction associated with cycling, regardless of air quality, the researchers said.

Compared to participants with low residential NO2 exposure, those in higher risk areas had a 17 per cent increase risk in first heart attack and 39 per cent for recurrent heart attack, the researchers noted.

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