The world has experienced the triumphs and falls of countless deadly diseases. People have successfully overcome the likes of smallpox, malaria, measles, yellow fever, polio and many more, the cures once and for all eradicating these nemeses from further damaging the population.

Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases defined a cure as a “permanent remission of disease following cessation of treatment.”

In recent years, the disease under the most scrupulous watch for a cure is HIV/AIDS. There are currently 30 HIV antiretrovirals and 11 prevention strategies developed to rid the world of HIV/AIDS. There is one crucial struggle researchers are having: it is unknown how long the virus needs to be in remission after stopping treatment before the person can be considered “cured.”

A recent experiment was completed this summer testing the drug Romidepsin. After a three-week trial, the drug had successfully awakened HIV diseased cells from their latent state, but it unfortunately could not at all decrease the “viral reservoir.”

According to The Body Pro, there are four strategies that have been devised to rid the body of this reservoir. These include gene therapy, stem cell transplants, direct immunotoxic therapy and what was done in the above experiment: attempting to activate latent cells. Conquering this reservoir is vital in completely ending HIV/AIDS.

Despite these experiments, other improvements are constantly being made to the medicine already available. According to an article published on September 16 in AIDS MEDS, a new combination pill of the drug Tenofovir has been formulated to lessen the toxicity in the patient’s body.

This combo pill will deliver more of the medicine to the actual cells that need it, thus leaving less of the drug in the blood stream. Ultimately this will put significantly less strain on bones and kidneys. The efficiency of a drug like this is a small step toward reaching a much loftier goal.

In comparison to 2013, the numbers of incidence and mortality in 2014 have decreased by 35 percent. Ridding the world of the dangers of HIV/AIDS is a process that will continue for years to come, but these small advances give researchers and doctors the hope they need to continue in their search.

– Kathleen Lee

Sources: The Body Pro, AIDS Action Committee, AIDS Meds 1, AIDS Meds 2
Photo: NPR

Infectious disease is the second most deadly health condition in the world (only behind heart disease) and claims over 16% of all lives lost annually. Nearly half of the World Health Organization’s top ten causes of disease in 2008 were infectious diseases; all of which disproportionately affect developing and low-income countries.

Take the pulse of this major player in global health with the below quick reference guide to five of the world’s most notorious infectious diseases.

Cholera (chol·er·a) – A strictly diarrheal illness caused by a bacterium that infects the intestinal tract and festers in any place contaminated with infected fecal matter. Transmission occurs through drinking water or eating food tinged with the bacterium, which is why cholera often affects regions lacking safe drinking water or proper treatment of sewage.

20% of infections progress to severe symptoms, which include watery diarrhea, leg cramps and vomiting. Cholera-induced dehydration can be life threatening, and may cause death within hours. Three to five million people are infected with cholera annually, causing between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – AIDS is a critical, incurable condition caused by the virus known as HIV. The virus damages T-cells, a critical component of the body’s immune response, and causes prolonged illness in its victims. HIV can be spread through contact with infected blood of another individual, or from mother-to-child during pregnancy and breast feeding. AIDS is now manageable with a cocktail of antiretroviral drugs, but still killed 1.7 million people in 2011.

Influenza (in·flu·en·za)– Contagious disease of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus, of which there are two main types: A and B. The flu causes fever, chills, muscle aches and occasional vomiting or diarrhea. Severity of the flu varies seasonally and depending on the infected individual. Extreme outbreaks have changed history: the 1918 pandemic, for example, affected 20-40% of the global population and killed 50 million people.

Malaria (ma·lar·i·a) – An infectious disease caused by a blood-borne parasite transmitted to humans through the bite of infected female mosquitoes. Malaria causes flu-like symptoms in its victims. Bouts of malaria are distinguished by cycles of sweating, chills and fever. In 2010, 219 million people came down with malaria; of those, 600,000 lost their lives. 91% of malaria deaths occur in African nations.

Tuberculosis (tu·ber·cu·lo·sis) – An infectious disease affecting the lungs. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are spread in the droplets released after a cough or sneeze, thereby entering the respiratory tract and causing fatigue, cough, chills, fever and night sweats. Countries with high burdens of HIV see more frequent and more severe cases of TB, including infections of the kidneys, brain and spine. 8.6 million people were infected with TB in 2012. Of those, 1.3 million lost their lives.

Casey Ernstes

Sources: Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Disease Control Key Facts, Centers for Disease Control Cholera, Flu, Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic Tuberculosis, The World Health Organization, The World Health Organization Media Centre
Photo: CNN