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New HIV Drug Breakthrough

Chinese and American scientists have made what could be a breakthrough in finding a way to stop HIV's ability to reproduce in the human body.

Experts from the University of Science and Technology of China were quoted by China Youth Daily Sunday as saying that they have identified a molecule that blocks a process by which the virus uses the body's own proteins to replicate and spread.

They hope that, by targeting the human protein instead of the virus' own material, they may minimize HIV's development of drug resistance.

This finding strengthens a new avenue for further clinical research, said the experts.

The research was a joint undertaking by researchers from the university based in Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, and from New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The discovery was published online by the Journal of the American Chemical Society in February, and could be an important step on the way to developing drugs to halt the virus.

Experts from the Chinese university said that in three to five years' time a possible drug developed on the basis of the research could be ready to enter clinical trials.

Shen Jie, director of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, welcomed the breakthrough but warned that there is still a long way to go, saying the new method needs to be tested and replicated.

Talking to China Daily yesterday, she said that they still have to demonstrate that the molecule can disrupt the virus' replication for an extended period.

Shen said that it is encouraging that many advances are being made in laboratories all over the world. "A large number of new findings are a good basis for a final and effective method," she said.

There are thought to be 16,000 new HIV cases every day and five HIV/AIDS-related deaths every minute across the world.

Of 100,000 registered cases of HIV/AIDS in China, only 10,000 people are still taking free antiviral medicines, said Hao Yang, deputy director of disease control at the Ministry of Health, who cited adverse side effects as the main reason people stopped treatment.

According to Wang Longde, vice minister of health, several critical steps will be taken this year to solve problems in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in China.

One will be to establish a national database of patients' medical records to make treatment more efficient. Disease control centers currently only have detailed records of 35,000 people with HIV/AIDS, he said.

(China Daily March 28, 2005)

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