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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.

With Agency Inputs

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Suicide can’t be predicted by asking about suicidal thoughts : Study

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Most people who died of suicide deny they experience suicidal thoughts when asked by doctors in the weeks and months leading up to their death, a major Australian study has found.

The findings, co-authored by clinical psychiatrist and Professor Matthew Large from UNSW’s School of Psychiatry, Sydney that published in the journal BJPsych Open The meta-analysis challenge the widely-held assumption that psychiatrists can predict who will suicide by asking if they are preoccupied with thoughts of killing themselves.

The study showed that 80% of patients who were not undergoing psychiatric treatment and who died of suicide reported not to have suicidal thoughts when asked by their psychiatrist or GP.

“If you meet someone who has suicidal ideation there is a 98 per cent chance that they are not going to suicide,” said Professor Large, an international expert on suicide risk assessment who also works in the emergency department of a major Sydney hospital.

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“But what we didn’t know was how frequently people who go on to suicide have denied having suicidal thoughts when asked directly,” he added.

“This study proves we can no longer ration psychiatric care based on the presence of suicidal thoughts alone. We need to provide high-quality, patient-centred care for everyone experiencing mental illness, whether or not they reveal they are experiencing suicidal thoughts,” Professor Large said.

About one in 10 people will have suicidal ideation in their lifetime. But the study showed suicidal ideation alone was not rational grounds for deciding who gets treatment and who does not, Professor Large said.

“We know that suicide feeling is pretty common and that suicide is actually a rare event, even among people with severe mental illness,” Professor Large added.

Suicidal ideation tells us an awful lot about how a person is feeling, their psychological distress, sometimes their diagnosis and their need for treatment but it’s not a meaningful test of future behaviour.

Suicidal feelings can fluctuate rapidly and people may suicide very impulsively after only a short period of suicidal thoughts.

But, people had good reasons not to disclose thoughts of suicide, fearing stigma, triggering over-reactions or upsetting family and friends, and being involuntarily admitted for psychiatric treatment, Professor Large said.

Professor Large emphasized that clinicians should not assume that patients experiencing mental distress without reporting suicidal ideas were not at elevated risk of suicide.

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