In what promises to be good news for African American diagnosed with HIV/AIDS -- an epidemic that continues to be a major health crisis for the United States -- scientists may have found a new development after 20 years that could lead to better treatment, British and U.S. researchers announced at the beginning of the year.
Researchers from Imperial College of London and Harvard University say they have grown a crystal that reveals an enzyme structure known as integrase, which is found in retroviruses like HIV and is a target for some of the newest HIV medicines, according to Reuters. That means researchers can gain a better understanding of how the integrase inhibitor drug works to prevent HIV from developing a resistance to them.
Once infected, HIV uses the integrase enzyme to attach itself to someone's DNA. While some new drugs for HIV block the enzyme, scientists are unclear how to advance the medications. Now, they are encouraged by the high-quality crystals, which will allow them to see how the medicines bind to and block integrase.
The finding is encouraging news for African Americans. At the end of 2006, there were an estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV, of which almost half (46 percent) were black, according to the most recent statistics available from the Centers for Disease and Prevention
While blacks represent approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, they continue to account for a higher proportion of cases at all stages of HIV/AIDS, from infection to death, compared with members of other races and ethnicities.
Almost 60 million people have been infected with HIV, and 25 million people have died of HIV-related causes since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. There is no cure and no vaccine, although drug cocktails can keep patients healthy.