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UNC researcher works toward anti-HIV vaccine
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Carolina Meadows

Professor Myron Cohen, in an intriguing presentation recently at Carolina Meadows, described the AIDS research he has been helping lead at UNC. With a longtime interest and experience in microbiology and immunology, he and his colleagues have had an intense focus on the transmission of HIV and stopping it.

Mankind has had a long fear of infection. Leprosy, plague, malaria, tuberculosis and more all have had important roles in medical history. HIV, probably beginning in central Africa, was added to the list in the 1980s.

Pathogenic organisms for humans include prions, viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. Any one or combinations can lead to illness or death. The pathology they produce depends on their environment as well as the host’s resistance.

The epidemiology of AIDS involves the HIV retrovirus and its transmission in semen, blood and from mother to fetus. With this knowledge, Dr. Cohen for many years has worked in the development of antiretroviral agents.

In 2007 he established the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Disease at UNC. A prominent part of the Institute’s research is being carried out in Malawi. Dr. Cohen told about a 10-year clinical trial in that setting with remarkable results.

If an infected member of a couple receives an antiretroviral agent early in the disease, the virus will usually be arrested. The non-infected partner most often remains well. The infected patient must continue to take the medication during their lifetime.

To develop a cohort of over 1500 discordant couples (one infected, the other not) has been challenging. The positive results of the trial, however, have been a major breakthrough in the early treatment of HIV.

Dr. Cohen hopes with the laboratory work being done now an anti-HIV vaccine will be available by 2015. His talk was engaging and informative about the microbiological battle against HIV and AIDS.

A medical update from Dr. Jim Scatliff, member of the Carolina Meadows resident Public Relations Committee

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