Life expectancy for people with HIV approaching that of general population.


A new study suggests the life expectancy of Canadians and Americans who are HIV positive is closing in on that of the general population.

The study says that a 20-year old diagnosed with HIV today can expect to live into their early 70s.

A couple of decades ago, a diagnosis of HIV was a death sentence for most who received it.

But with the discovery and improvement of antiretroviral drugs, HIV has become a chronic disease for most who have access to and can afford the medication.

A leading HIV researcher, Dr. Julio Montaner, says the findings of the study are excellent news.

Montaner is director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, which led the research collaboration that produced the study, which is published in the journal PLoS One.

He says the longevity gains have been remarkable. In 2000, a 20-year-old newly diagnosed with HIV could expect to live another 36 years. By 2006, that figure had climbed to 51 years.

“I don’t think, in all honesty, that there has been an area of medicine that has undergone a revolutionary evolution over our lifetime as HIV has,” Montaner says.

Dr. Ann Stewart, medical director of Toronto’s Casey House, agrees.

Casey House started 25 years ago as a hospice for dying AIDS patients. As treatment has prolonged the lives of the community it serves, the facility has transitioned into a hospital that offers care for people living with HIV.

Stewart says the findings of the study mirror what Casey House staff see in their patient population. But she warned that the picture is not an “unclouded” one — HIV-positive people often develop the health problems of age faster than those who are not infected.

So heart problems, cancers and the onset of dementia that might be expected in the late 60s, 70s or even 80s in HIV-negative people can show up in the 50s for HIV-positive people, she says.

“It’s much better than it was, for sure. For sure. But it’s not without challenges,” Stewart says.

“You can have HIV and live a wonderful life. But there’s certain complications and challenges associated with it as there are with other chronic diseases that you’re going to struggle with. So it’s not an unclouded sky.”

Child bone-marrow transplant ‘first’


First human trial of new bone-marrow transplant method.

Mohammed Ahmed
Mohammed started going to school in September

Doctors at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital have carried out a pioneering bone-marrow transplant technique.

They say the method should help with donor shortages since it does not require a perfect cell match.

Mohammed Ahmed, who is nearly five years old, was among the first three children in the world to try out the new treatment.

He has severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome and had been waiting for a suitable donor for years.

Mohammed, who lives in Milton Keynes, was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital when he was a year old.

“Start Quote

We waited for a full match but it did not come. By the grace of God, we took the decision to have the treatment”

Jamil Ahmed, Mohammed’s dad

His condition – a weak immune system – makes him more susceptible to infections than most, and a bone marrow transplant is the only known treatment.

While Mohammed was on the transplant waiting list, he became extremely sick with swine flu.

At that time, his doctors decided Mohammed’s only real hope was to have a mismatched bone-marrow transplant, with his father acting as the donor.

Mohammed’s dad, Jamil, agreed to give the experimental therapy a go.

Before giving his donation, Jamil was first vaccinated against swine flu so that his own bone-marrow cells would know how to fight the infection.

Mohammed’s doctors then modified these donated immune cells, called “T-cells”, in the lab to engineer a safety switch – a self-destruct message that could be activated if Mohammed’s body should start to reject them once transplanted.

Safety net

Rejection or graft-v-host disease is a serious complication of bone-marrow transplants, particularly where tissue matching between donor and recipient is not perfect, and is one of the most difficult challenges faced by patients and their doctors.

Mismatched transplants in children – where the donor is not a close match for the child – are usually depleted of T-cells to prevent graft-v-host disease, but this causes problems in terms of virus infections and leukaemia relapse.

Blood cells
White blood cells protect the body against infections

The safety switch gets round this – plenty of T-cells to be transfused and later killed off if problems do arise.

Thankfully, the transplant carried out in 2011 was a success – Mohammed’s doctors did not need to use the safety switch.

Although Mohammed still has to take a number of medicines to ward off future infections, his immune system is now in better shape.

Jamil said: “We waited for a full match but it did not come. By the grace of God, we took the decision to have the treatment.

“Now he is all right. Sometimes we forget what he has been through. We are just so grateful.”

He said Mohammed would still need close monitoring and regular health checks over the coming years, but his outlook was good.

Dr Waseem Qasim, ‎consultant in paediatric immunology at Great Ormond Street Hospital and lead author for the study, said the new approach should hopefully mean children who received a mismatched transplant could enjoy the same chance of success as those given a fully matched transplant.

“We think Mohammed is cured of his disorder. He should be able to lead a fairly normal life now.”

A full report about Mohammed’s therapy and the research by Great Ormond Street Hospital, King’s College London and the Institute of Child Health has just been published in PLoS One journal.

There are currently about 1,600 people in the UK waiting for a bone-marrow transplant and 37,000 worldwide.

Just 30% of people will find a matching donor from within their families.

Donations involve collecting blood from a vein or aspirating bone marrow from the pelvis using a needle and syringe.

Moderate Alcohol Consumption in Pregnancy Linked to Lower Childhood IQ, Genotypying Study Suggests .


A new study in PLoS One adds fuel to the debate on whether moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy is linked to reduced cognition in offspring.

Nearly 4200 U.K. women reported their alcohol consumption twice during pregnancy, and their offspring had cognitive testing at age 8 years. Both mothers and children underwent genotyping for four genes that influence ethanol metabolism — genes encoding alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzymes.

Researchers found that four ADH variants in children and one variant in mothers were associated with reduced childhood IQ — but only among children whose mothers drank moderately (up to 6 units weekly) during pregnancy.

The researchers say their finding “suggests that, even amongst women drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, subtle changes in exposure to alcohol due to an ability to metabolize the substrate may be important, and offers some support to the hypothesis that even small amounts of alcohol in utero have an effect on future cognitive outcomes.”

Source: PLoS One