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Researchers hope antibody studies will pave way for HIV vaccine

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The path for a cure or vaccine for HIV is littered with disappointments – much-hyped treatments or trials have ultimately ended in failure.

Today, however, the HIV research community is more hopeful, especially in lieu of PrEP – pre-exposure prophylaxis – the use of the antiretroviral drug Truvada to prevent HIV infection. With PrEP, HIV-negative individuals take a daily dose of Truvada to halt HIV transmission, and the drug is more than 99 percent effective at preventing HIV when taken daily.

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Therein, however, lies the rub: PrEP requires daily adherence.

Flush on the heels of PrEP is a major new, multi-continent trial that will test a lab-created antibody to determine if it is effective in preventing HIV transmission.

The antibody was discovered in an HIV-infected individual who was able to control HIV infection without medication. Replicated in a lab, researchers will inject a solution containing the antibody into HIV-negative men and transgender individuals who have sex with men through an IV, then monitor whether infections occur.

The new study is called AMP, for antibody-mediated prevention.

“This is landmark study,” said Shobha Swaminathan, an infectious disease specialist who is part of the study. “It is the first study of this magnitude to see whether an antibody infusion can help prevent new HIV infections. If it proves effective, it could potentially pave a way for developing a vaccine for HIV infection.”

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Typically, vaccines introduce a biological agent that stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize and fight off a particular disease. Many vaccines spark the body to create antibodies.

In AMP, patients recruited for the study will receive transfusions of saline solution including the antibody once every eight weeks. The trial will continue for roughly two years.

AMP is not a test for a vaccine. The antibody being studied dissipates over time. The hope, however, is that scientists can find antibodies that prevent HIV from replicating, and eventually create a vaccine that induces the body to produce antibodies that prevent HIV infection.

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The study will recruit 2,700 men and transgender individuals whose sexual partners are men. In addition to being offered the antibody IV, participants will be counseled on safer sex practices and offered PrEP. Those already taking PrEP are not ineligible for the study.

The AMP study isn’t the only study looking at options for HIV prevention. Researchers are also currently testing long-lasting injectable medication, also administered about once every two months. The drug currently being tested is called cabotegravir and is owned by ViiV Healthcare. Cabotegravir has performed well in safety studies and animal testing.

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Additionally, researchers are currently recruiting participants to test another iteration of Truvada. A study on non-human primates found the drug 100% effective at preventing HIV, but a second study suggested blood levels of the primary HIV-fighting drug in the body might be too low to be effective.

Gilead Sciences, the maker of Truvada, will soon be testing a modified version of the drug that has fewer reported side effects. Results from that study are expected in 2020.

Roughly 45,000 people contract HIV in the United States every year. Worldwide, roughly 37 million people are living with HIV. Most live in sub-Saharan Africa, where many of the AMP test sites are located.

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When first recognized in 1981, HIV was usually fatal; today, it can typically be treated – but not cured – with a single daily pill that combines several anti-retroviral drugs.

To find out more about AMP, or to volunteer for the study, visit ampstudy.org.


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‘Breadth and scale’ of nationwide protests is ‘staggering’: NYU history professor

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Protests continued to grow in size in cities and towns from coast-to-coast -- and around the world.

"As a historian of social movements in the U.S., I am hard pressed to think of any time in the past when we have had two straight weeks of large-scale protests in hundreds of places, from suburbs to big cities," NYU history Prof. Tom Sugrue posted on Twitter.

"The breadth and scale of #Floyd protests is staggering," he continued.

"We have had some huge one-day demonstrations, e.g. March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963); antinuclear march in NYC (1982), and Women's March (2017). We have widespread, simultaneous protests, such as in the days following MLK, Jr.'s assassination (1968)," he explained. "But the two together--very unusual."

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Incel blew his hand off — and may have been planning for suicide bomber attack on ‘hot’ cheerleaders: report

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A young man in Virginia was photographed for his mugshot with extensive facial injuries.

"A 23-year-old Virginia man who appeared to be planning an incel bomb attack on "hot cheerleaders" accidentally blew off his hand with explosives, authorities say," BuzzFeed News reported Saturday. "Cole Carini was charged in federal court on Friday connection with the plot after he allegedly lied to FBI agents by saying his extensive injuries were the result of a lawnmower accident."

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Big turnout for protest in Texas town known as a ‘haven’ for the Ku Klux Klan

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Protesters gathered in Vidor, Texas on Saturday for a rally against racism and police violence.

https://twitter.com/JordanJamesTV/status/1269366486189080576

The East Texas town has long had a reputation for racism.

Vidor is a small city of about 11,000 people near the Texas Gulf Coast, not too far from the Louisiana border. Despite the fact that Beaumont, a much bigger city just 10 minutes away, is quite integrated, Vidor is not. There are very few blacks there; it's mostly white. That is in large part because of a history of racism in Vidor, a past that continues to haunt the present," Keith Oppenheim reported for CNN in 2006.

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