New method may stop HIV spreading
Chinese and American scientists have jointly discovered a way to prevent the HIV virus spreading through the body.
Experts from the University of Science and Technology of China say that their most important finding is a small-molecule compound.
Usually the HIV virus enters a cell through this gap and begins duplicating itself immediately.
The result is that cells die and the immune system breaks down.
This finding provides a new method for further clinical research of HIV/AIDS, said the experts.
The research was a joint undertaking by experts from the university based in Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, and researchers from the United States.
The discovery has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, which says it is an important step on the way to developing drugs to halt the virus.
Experts from the university said that further research work will be done in the next three to five years.
By then a possible drug developed on the basis of the finding is expected to enter clinical trials.
Shen Jie, director of the National Centre for AIDS/STD (sexually transmitted disease) Control and Prevention, welcomed the breakthrough but warned that there is still a long way to go.
Shen said that the new method needs to pass more replication tests.
For example, scientists must show that the compound can occupy the gap before the HIV virus for an extended period.
If the process can be repeated many times not only in the laboratory of the university but in other labs, the finding will become more reliable, Shen told China Daily yesterday.
She said that discovering both effective treatments and vaccines against the HIV virus will take a long time.
She said that it is encouraging that many new anti-HIV findings are coming out of laboratories all over the world.
"A big quantity of new findings is a basis for a final and effective method," Shen said.
There are 16,000 new HIV cases every day, and five deaths caused by the virus every minute across the world.
In China, the health authority estimates that there are 840,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers including 80,000 AIDS patients.
However, among the 100,000 registered HIV/AIDS cases, only about 10,000 people are still taking free antiviral medicines dispensed by the health authorities, said Hao Yang, deputy director of disease control at the Ministry of Health.
Adverse side effects of present antiviral drugs are the main reason many patients are giving up treatment, Hao said.
According to Wang Longde, vice-minister of health, several critical steps will be taken this year to solve problems in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in China.
One way is to establish a national database of patients' medical records to make treatment more efficient. Disease control centres only have detailed records of 35,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers, he said.
(China Daily 03/28/2005 page2)