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A potential HIV drug trial is underway. The scientists hope for initial results in November. One of them has dire warnings about the threat to humanity from future epidemics. He believes gay men can be the “canary in the coal mine” as seen with HIV and monkeypox.

Dr. Marcus A. Conant is a consultant dermatologist whose work early identified the first cases of AIDS in the US. He is now the Chief Medical Officer of the biotech company American Gene Technologies (AGT). He has been working on a cure for HIV for the past few years.

Instead of drugs, AGT uses gene technology to boost the body’s immune system.

A minority of individuals are genetically resistant to the effects of HIV. There are conditions People with HIV Bone marrow transplants have been performed and gene-resistant immune cells have been inherited from such people. This cured them of HIV.

However, bone marrow transplantation is a risky procedure. Doctors only look at it when a person is fighting a blood-related cancer like leukemia. While there is medication for the disease, there is no effective, widespread treatment for HIV.

Instead, AGT wants to use gene technology to achieve the same result. The procedure involves removing some white blood cells from an HIV-positive patient and then inserting a gene that corrects them. This allows the cells to stop HIV from replicating.

Using gene therapy as a potential HIV cure

Hundreds of thousands of HIV-resistant CD4 T-cells can reenter the patient, multiply and—hopefully—fight HIV.

In 2020, The FDA has approved AGT To start a trial involving seven patients. Those patients had their own genetically-modified T-cells (AGT103-T) injected back into them.

None of them experienced any negative side effects from the injection, which means the trial can now continue. The next step. Antiretroviral therapy was discontinued in each patient. They are being closely monitored to determine if their viral load is undetectable.

Related: A new study says that HIV has a “significant” effect on the aging process

Dr. Conant could not give Quality Any preconceived notions about the outcome of the trial when we contact you over the phone. It remained under wraps until the end of this year. However, he said he and his team are already planning a larger experiment.

Dr. Marcus Conant is working to find a cure for HIV.
Dr. Marcus Conant is working to find a cure for HIV (Photo: AGT)

“It’s what science has always done,” he explained. “You ask, ‘Which part is working well? Why do we think it’s working? And how can we do it better?’

“When AZT came out in 1987, it worked very little. We were able to show that it was barely prolonging patients’ lives.

“Now here we are, 30 years later, with basically low levels of immunity and patients who can have unprotected sex and not transmit the virus.” It’s an amazing development. But ‘what can we do to make it work better?’ It was found by asking.

“So now there will be another study, probably in 30-50 patients. As my staff and I design that study, we hope to take what we learn from it and treat more patients. We will modify it to make it even better.

A cure for HIV has eluded science for more than four decades

Gene therapy has been used to treat many conditions over the past 20 years. This includes severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (SCID) and the eye condition, retinitis pigmentosa.

However, this is the first time this has been used as a potential treatment for HIV. If it works, it will break the foundation.

HIV virus particles
HIV (in green) on an immune cell (Photo: CDC/Public Domain)

HIV has proven stubbornly resistant to medication. It’s something Conant knows all too well. He has been working in the field since the early 1980s. As a dermatologist, he saw the first cases of men with Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS)—one of the rare cancers that became the hallmark of AIDS before treatment was available.

Conant was a junior professor at UC San Francisco in 1981. He still remembers seeing his first case of KS in April of that year. It was a few months before the CDC issued its first public warning about a disease affecting gay men.

Related: Once every six months, HIV treatment filers for FDA approval

HIV, monkeypox and the threat of many epidemics

Conant said he felt emotional because of his experience with HIV. déjà vu When he heard about this year’s outbreak of monkey disease. Issues in the US Now they are over 23,00 and most of them are gay men.

Conant says the world needs to be better prepared for such outbreaks.

“The first thing you see in any epidemic is ‘it can’t happen to us’ denial.

“The second thing you always see is a responsible person.” This is what we saw with HIV/AIDS. And that’s what we’re seeing now with monkey disease: ‘Oh, those gays, if they weren’t so promiscuous, the disease would never have happened.’

no” he confirms. “The disease was going to happen. It happened in a specific group first. Instead of blaming the gay community, people should recognize that this is an opportunity to recognize that these zoonotic diseases that jump from animals to humans are becoming more common.”

“The gay community may be the first group to see this or the first to see it.

“Why? Because gay men have opportunities to travel more frequently than their straight brothers who are raising children and staying at home and can’t just pick up whenever they want and go to a party in Spain.

“So this is all like the canary in the coal mine. What is happening in the gay community is a warning to society: ‘We have a problem here’.

“In the last 40 years we’ve had HIV, you’ve had Ebola, you’ve had Zika, you’ve had Covid and now you’ve got monkeypox. This is my top five in my life, and it will continue as people travel more.

Conant agrees with other scientists who say global warming will increase the likelihood of pandemics. Warming temperatures are forcing viruses out of their old habitats.

Global solutions to global pandemics

Nations want to see a more global solution to the epidemic rather than just doing their own thing. After all, viruses have no respect for boundaries.

He also thinks that governments should take additional measures to ensure that individuals self-isolate when necessary.

“They tell gay men with the disease, ‘Go home and separate.’ “In America, a gay person cannot go home and isolate himself,” he says.

“Sure, you can order all the food, but if he doesn’t have an income, maybe he can order the food for a week, and then he’s running out of money. We don’t have the infrastructure to make ‘go home and isolate’ a practical solution.

“If we don’t develop a way to control these diseases, we could be in danger,” he continued. Both covid and monkeypox have relatively low mortality rates. “We will see societies collapse,” he warns, if a disease that kills 40 percent of those infected comes along.

“We had to learn from AIDS,” says Conant. “Forty years ago, AIDS was the first real warning, ‘Hey, we need better policies to deal with problems like this,’ and we learned nothing.” And here we are, after one disease, and we respond to each person as once and it will not happen again. “

David Hudson is a contributing editor at Queerty. Follow him on Twitter @davidhudson_uk

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