HIV Research Helped Fight Against Covid: Mexican Specialist

Mexico City. The four decades of scientific research to find a cure for HIV / AIDS or a vaccine have not yielded results yet because the virus is highly complex, but the knowledge obtained from RNA viruses – such as HIV – and their mechanism of action have been useful for treating other conditions: hepatitis C, which is already curable, and SARS-CoV-2, for which, less than two years after its onset, there are already a couple of antivirals with proven efficacy to avoid serious complications of infection.

One of these products contains ritonavir, which is used in cocktails to control the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), explained researcher Gustavo Reyes Terán, on the subject of World Day to Fight AIDS (December 1) and 40 years after the identification of the first people with the disease.

Since his first years of training as a specialist in internal medicine and later in infectology, he has worked in research on the disease.

In an interview, he commented that work in the basic biomedical area has also been the platform for the development of treatments against hepatitis B, while for the control of the HIV / AIDS epidemic, which began in June 1981 in the United States, without undoubtedly there have been important advances.

In 1983, the French researcher Luc Montagnier isolated and described HIV for the first time as the cause of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This discovery, which earned him the Nobel Prize in Medicine (2008), paved the way for projects that have sought to understand and eradicate the virus.

Reyes Terán recalled when in 1987 he was in the Pemex Hospital in Villahermosa, Tabasco, and the first man with HIV / AIDS in the state was identified.

The patient met the clinical criteria for AIDS and the doctors were able to confirm the case with the Elisa laboratory tests that had just arrived at the entity. He had received a blood transfusion for heart surgery. His wife was also infected and nothing could be done for them. There were no medications yet.

Now, he said, the mere fact that HIV / AIDS has turned from deadly to chronic disease is a great achievement. It is also true that in recent years antiretrovirals consisting of a single pill a day have been developed. People living with HIV can stop taking eight or more tablets and have a greater adherence to their therapies, said Reyes Terán, currently head of the Coordinating Commission of the National Institutes of Health and High Specialty Hospitals.

With therapies that consist of a single daily dose, it is more likely that the presence of the virus in the blood decreases to undetectable levels and that carriers lead a normal life.

The challenge remains to eliminate the virus from the body. Reyes Terán explained that in addition to having a high replication capacity, HIV is integrated into the genome that is in the nucleus of cells, and some of them become reservoirs for the virus. The drugs do not reach those sites.

At the Center for Research in Infectious Diseases (Cieni), of the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER) and created by the specialist, one of the works developed has to do with better understanding the immune response in lymphoid tissues. These are the privileged sites where the virus remains latent and is the main obstacle to the elimination of HIV from the body. Also at Cieni, the regional surveillance of HIV resistance to antiretrovirals was established to guide public policies on treatment change at the national and regional levels, with the World Health Organization.

One more area of ​​work has been the knowledge about population genetics and its relationship with a better or worse evolution of HIV infection.

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HIV Research Helped Fight Against Covid: Mexican Specialist