AIDS 2014: Burnet Institute research showcased

Burnet Institute

24 July, 2014

Dr Megan Lim with her poster at AIDS 2014.

By Lydia Hales

There was a significant contingent of Burnet research showcased through scientific posters in the AIDS 2014 Exhibition Hall this week.

Here is a just a small selection of some of that research that was on display.

Low rates of re-infection and reduced injecting long-term following recently acquired HCV in the Australian trial of acute hepatitis C: the ATAHC recall study
J.S. Doyle, D. Shaw, G.J. Dore, J. Grebely, A. Erratt, M.E. Hellard, G.V. Matthews

In one of the largest prospective studies of HCV treatment among those with and without HIV co-infection, a team lead by the Centre for Population Health’s Dr Joseph Doyle investigated the rates of re-infection in hepatitis C (HCV) patients.

Of the 163 original patients recruited, 50 were followed up an average of seven years later, the team found the chance of reinfection to be low, at 1.8 per cent per year.

Increased glucose metabolic activity is associated with CD4R T-cell activation and depletion during chronic HIV infection
C.S. Palmer, D. Henstridge, M. Ostrowski, J. Zhou, I. Sada-Ovalle, J. Martinson, R. Novak, S.R. Lewin, A. Jaworowski, M.A. Febbraio, J.M. Mc Cune, A. Landay, S.M. Crowe

In a world first, research lead by the Centre for Biomedical Research’s Dr Clovis Palmer of has shown that immune cells infected by HIV die of exhaustion, due to their abnormally high metabolic activity.

CD4 T cells are white blood cells that fight infection and disease – those infected with HIV who experience a significant loss of these cells, even when on anti-retroviral therapy, are at higher risk of many life-threatening illnesses such as liver and cardiovascular disease.

It was thought that most CD4 T cells died from the toxic products produced to get rid of the virus (inflammation) but scientists were unsure exactly how.

Glucose is the main source of fuel for cells, supporting T-cell survival and growth. In healthy cells, it is slowly taken in and used to produce pockets of energy.

In cells infected with HIV, more glucose is taken in by cells to support the extra work they are doing to fight the infection. However the glucose is then broken down in a different, less efficient way, resulting in the cells dying of exhaustion.

The research could lead to new drugs that delay the start of anti-retroviral therapy and strengthen the immune systems for some HIV-positive people at higher risk of life-threatening diseases.

Advocacy has changed law enforcement practices, which were barriers to HIV prevention outreach for men who have sex with men in three different districts of Myanmar
Burnet Institute, HIV/AIDS, Yangon, Myanmar, Burnet Institute, Centre for International Health, Melbourne, Australia, Myanmar Business Coalition on AIDS, HIV, Yangon, Myanmar, Myanmar Business Coalition on AIDS, HIV/AIDS, Mandalay, Myanmar

The prevalence of HIV among men who have sex with men in Myanmar is estimated to be 10.4 per cent with current prevention programs reach close to 70 per cent of the population.

A team lead by Burnet’s Dr Zaw Min Oo and Bruce Parnell has been working since 2011 to conduct advocacy and training sessions with police in the Yangon East District, Mandalay and Monywa to improve understanding of outreach work performed on the streets.

The initiative was a partnership between Burnet Institute and the Myanmar Business Coalition on AIDS.

Without training in public health, police often did not understand that using condoms can help prevent diseases such as HIV, and were sometimes arresting people carrying condoms on the streets at night, believing them to be acting irresponsibly.

The team found careful and sensitive advocacy with police could lead to behavioural changes, and in some cases lead to police actively assisting peer educators and their clients.

The advocacy to change local police policies will be expanded to other townships in Myanmar.

Timing, rate and cause of death among tuberculosis patients, by HIV and ART status
M. Lim, N. Field, J. Murray, R. Dowdeswell, J. Glynn, P. Sonnenberg

The rate of death is very high among HIV positive South African men undergoing treatment for TB.

The Centre for Population Health’s Dr Megan Lim led a team to investigate these deaths using autopsy.

They aimed to determine whether TB was the cause of death, finding it to be so in less than half of all cases. Most deaths were due to other HIV-related infections such as pneumocystis pneumonia.

Their findings demonstrate the importance of providing antiretroviral therapy to HIV positive men being treated for TB, and for accurate diagnosis of other infections.

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