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Studies show big promises for HIV prevention shot

Story by Marilynn Marchione / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Exciting research
suggests that a shot every one to three months may someday give an
alternative to the daily pills that some people take now to cut their
risk of getting HIV.

The experimental drug has only been tested
for prevention in monkeys, but it completely protected them from
infection in two studies reported at an AIDS conference on Tuesday.

"This
is the most exciting innovation in the field of HIV prevention that
I've heard recently," said Dr. Robert Grant, an AIDS expert at the
Gladstone Institutes, a foundation affiliated with the University of
California, San Francisco.

"Both groups are showing 100 percent
protection" with the drug, Grant said of the two groups of researchers.
"If it works and proves to be safe, it would allow for HIV to be
prevented with periodic injections, perhaps every three months."

Until
a vaccine is developed, condoms are the best way to prevent infection
with the AIDS virus and many other sexually spread diseases. But not
everyone uses them, or does so all the time, so public health officials
have pursued other prevention options.

A drug used to treat
people with HIV — Gilead Science's Truvada — also is used to help
prevent infection in people who don't have the virus. A big study in gay
men a few years ago found it could cut this risk by up to 90 percent,
depending on how faithfully people take the daily pills.

The new
research tested something that could make this type of prevention much
more practical — a long-acting experimental drug made by GlaxoSmithKline
PLC. The studies tested it in macaques exposed to a human-monkey
version of HIV.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention gave six monkeys shots of the drug every four weeks; six
others got dummy shots. All were exposed to the virus twice a week for
11 weeks.

The monkeys who got the fake treatment were readily
infected "but the animals that received the long-acting drug remained
protected," said study leader Gerardo Garcia-Lerma of the CDC.

The
results mirror what was seen in the CDC's early research in monkeys on
Truvada, the pill that's available for HIV prevention now.

In the
second study, Chasity Andrews and others at the Aaron Diamond AIDS
Research Center at Rockefeller University in New York gave eight monkeys
two shots of the drug, four weeks apart, and dummy shots to eight
others. The animals were exposed to the virus weekly for eight weeks.
Again, all animals given the fake treatment were quickly infected and
those on the drug were all protected.

To see how long a single
shot would last, they did a second study. The single shot protected 12
monkeys for about 10 weeks on average.

The dose used in a single shot corresponded to what people would get from a shot every three months, researchers said.

"This
is really promising," said Dr. Judith Currier, an infectious disease
specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The research
"supports moving this forward" into human testing, she said.

Currier
is on the program committee for the meeting in Boston where the studies
were presented — the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic
Infections. The New York study also was published online by the journal
Science.

Grant said the long-acting drug is chemically similar to
certain AIDS medicines sold now that are "extremely safe, well
tolerated and extremely potent." A mid-stage trial testing the
long-acting shots in people as a treatment, not a prevention, is already
underway, he said.Studies show big promises for HIV prevention shot

Wednesday, March 5 2014, 09:18 AM EST

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