For Online E-newspaper
The East African : Jun 7th 2015
The EastAfrican 32 OUTLOOK JUNE 6-12,2015 H E ALT H Give patients ARVs early — scientists D≥ugs a≥e cu≥≥ently given when white blood cell levels d≥op By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent as soon as they are diagnosed with the virus to lower their chances of developing Aids and other serious illnesses. Scientists from the US National P Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAid) say that rather than wait until a person’s immune system is weakened by the virus, it is important to introduce them to antiretroviral therapy straight away. Currently, HIV-positive patients get antiretroviral therapy only when their white blood cell levels drop. For most patients, ARVs are only prescribed when their CD4+ cell count (a key measure of how strong the immune system is) falls below a certain level. The guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation say treatment should start when there are fewer than 500 white blood cells in every cubic millimetre of blood. “At this level, the body’s immune system is weakened and more vulnerable to the effects of HIV,” say the scientists. The researchers say that early treatment and diagnosis mean that people living with HIV expect to live long, healthy lives. The six-year Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment study (START) that began in 2011 was conducted on 4,685 people from 35 countries to establish the benefits of early therapy on HIV-infected people. Half of the study’s volunteers were randomised to start antiretroviral therapy immediately (early eople living with HIV should be given antiretroviral drugs The chemical war against HIV How HIV attacks 1 Attacks the immune system by invading white blood cells known as CD4+ T cells 3 HIV DNA combines with host cell DNA 5 Developing HIVs push out of cell then break free, host cell eventually dies off HIV Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus meaning it stores its genetic material as RNA or ribonucleic acid Normal CD4+Tcell count in a healthy person is 800 - 1,200/mm3 2 Virus builds DNA inside the host cell from genetic material stored in its RNA 4The DNA of the infected cell now produces RNA and proteins for new HIVs 6 Working viruses mature from raw materials, circulate in blood, find more CD4+ T cells Antiretrovirals (ARV) The main treatment against the spread of HIV Block the virus’s ability to replicate There are different types that work on different parts of the process Patients take ARVs in combination (usually of three)to counter the effect of the virus mutating to survive 1 2 Entry inhibitors stop the virus from entering the host cell Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTI) and Non-Nucleoside RTIs (NNRTI) stop the HIV’s gene-copying process 3 Protease inhibitors prevent later stages as new virus matures Virus reservoirs A key challenge for curing HIV is the presence of viral reservoirs, infected immune cells where the virus can lie dormant for years, hidden from ARVs or the immune system Source: CDC/WHO/UNAIDS/Avert.org/amfar.org/merckmanuals.com treatment) while the other half deferred their treatment until their CD4 count was below 500 cells per cubic millimetre. The researchers measured a number of different outcomes including illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, tuberculosis, kidney or liver disease. They found that the risk of devel- oping serious illnesses or dying was reduced by 53 per cent among those in early treatment group compared with those in the differed group. “Early therapy not only improves the health of individuals but also lowers their viral load, reducing the risk of them transmitting HIV to others,” said the director of NIAid and study leader, Anthony Fauci. “These findings have global implications for the treatment of HIV.” The START announcement fol- lows a series of research findings over past years showing the health benefits of starting HIV treatment early. The findings from these studies will play an important role in Scientists are now trying to identify and attack these reservoirs, one approach being to use anti-cancer drugs to “flush”out HIV AIDS occurs when CD4+ T cell count falls below 200/mm3 BENEFITS Researchers found that the risk of developing serious illnesses or dying was reduced by 53 per cent among those in early treatment group compared with those in the differed group. United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAids) has welcomed the new findings saying starting antiretroviral therapy at a higher CD4 level will have a positive effect on the health and well-being of people living with HIV. shaping the new treatment guidance from the WHO due to be released later in 2015. Around 35 million people are liv- ing with HIV and more than two million start antiretroviral therapy each year. Most national guidelines recommend that HIV positive people undergo regular blood tests to monitor the progress of infection before embarking on treatment. The process involves monitoring the amount of virus in the blood — the viral load and effects of HIV infection on the immune system. This is determined by measuring the CD4+. Welcome news The United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAids) has welcomed the new findings saying starting antiretroviral therapy at a higher CD4 level will have a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV. “Every person living with HIV should have immediate access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy,” said Michel Sidibé, executive-director of UNAids. He added that the findings strongly support the UNAids FastTrack approach to averting 28 million new HIV infections and 21 million Aids-related deaths by 2030. Dilemma as Tanzania ≥ejects envi≥onment p≥otocol THE EAST African Community is in a dilemma over how to amend the EAC Environment and Natural Resources Protocol, which has been rejected by Tanzania. The protocol aims to promote co-operation between partner states in conservation and management of the environment and natural resources; adopt a common vision in addressing challenges to sustainable development and make concerted efforts to prevent environmental degradation. In a letter dated September 4, 2014 to the EAC Secretariat, Tanzania said the protocol contradicted the one on the Common Market, as it seeks to regulate trading of minerals, access to land and premises which, Dar said, should be governed by national policies and laws. “The scope of the protocol in some areas is too wide and covers issues beyond the environment and natural resource management,” reads the letter. According to Tanzania, the protocol included provisions on marketing and trading in minerals and yet the focus of the treaty is protection of the environment. It also includes development and transmission of electricity, development of an integrated policy on rural electrifica- The protocol will provide ways to address conflicts like the one involving Lake Victoria and its resources. Picture: File tion and interconnection of electrical grids between partner states. “It covers mat- ters on tourism development rather than environment management and yet partner states are negotiating a protocol on tourism and wildlife management where issues of tourism development can be bet- ter articulated,” reads the letter. According to the EAC Environment Ministers, an amendment to the protocol may not be possible because there is no precedence of a partially ratified protocol being modified. So far, only Kenya and Uganda have ratified the protocol, which was signed in 2006, before Rwanda and Burundi joined the Community. The question of how a partially ratified pro- tocol could be amended was raised by the task force appointed by the EAC Secretariat to look into the concerns raised by Tanzania on the protocol. “We shall seek a legal opinion on the matter and see if it will be possible to amend the treaty to accommodate such amendments,” said the EAC ministers. “The alternative would be for Tanzania to ratify the protocol and seek amendments later.” The operationalisation of an EAC protocol can only take effect after all the partner states have ratified it. This means that the region will not have a framework to address long-standing conflicts over use of cross-border resources such as Lake Victoria and the Mara-Serengeti tourism eco-system or scarce water and pasture resources. The ministers have now referred the matter to the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers, who include the attorneys-general from the five partner states, to advise on the way forward and for a meeting be convened this month after consultations. By Christabel Ligami The research used on-farm trials and soil tests. Picture: File New treatment for rheumatoid athritis Researchers from the University of Queensland have developed a world-first vaccine-style therapeutic approach to treat rheumatoid arthritis — a debilitating disease affecting more than 450,000 people. The phase one clinical trial, published in Science Translational Medicine, shows the new treatment is safe and effective in supressing the immune response. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues, particularly in the joints, causing inflammation, pain and deformity. Fruit sugar can increase weight, liver and fat mass A new study at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois has found that, matched calorie for calorie with simple sugar glucose, fructose (or fruit sugar) causes significant weight gain, physical inactivity, and body fat deposition. The published study shows that fructose consumption significantly increases body weight, liver mass, and fat mass. The researchers also found that fructose consumption makes people less active. BRIEFS Filter uses nanotechnology, sand to purify water A water filter that absorbs anything from copper and fluoride to bacteria, viruses and pesticides has won a prestigious African Innovation Prize. Its inventor Tanzanian chemical engineer Askwar Hilonga, designed it to use nanotechnology and sand to filter water. The prize, worth $38,348, was the first of its kind from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. The invention will be useful to 70 per cent of households in Tanzania who do not have clean drinking water. Complementing fertilisers boosts crop production Use of secondary nutrients and micronutrients to complement organic and micronutrient fertilisers can boost crop production, according to research. A study conducted by the Rwanda Agriculture Board in collaboration with the International Fertiliser for Development Centre through on-farm trials and soil tests in Rwanda on various crops showed that even though the new nutrients are not used in too much quantity, production is likely to significantly increase. Demonstrations and trials are ongoing on crops such as maize, potatoes, rice, and wheat.
May 31st 2015
Jun 14th 2015