Are laser beams the answer to the supposed “incurable” human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)? This is not far-fetched as more researches and studies are being conducted to look for modality in the treatment of HIV that eventually turns into the dreaded acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.
This is futuristic but possible that one day, an HIV patient will just walk into a doctor’s clinic and simply asks to be treated with a cutting-edge technology in modern medicine – the intravenous laser therapy (IVLT).
Common HIV/AIDS myths still exist and are often spread among non-medical professionals, which makes it imperative that new treatment options are shared.
Treatment options such as antiretroviral therapy or ART, have been life-saving in terms of treating the disease, but the requirement of taking a daily pill has proven to be difficult for some patients.
The drugs do not kill or cure the virus. However, when taken in combination they can prevent the growth of the virus. When the virus is slowed down, so is HIV disease. Now, researchers have made a recent breakthrough.
Reports have shown that although overall national rates of HIV infection are decreasing, rates among certain cohorts of patients, such as young gay and bisexual men, are increasing.
In the Philippines alone, the country has registered the fastest-growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Asia-Pacific in the past six years with a 140-percent increase in the number of new infections, the Dept. of Health (DOH) reported last year.
At the end of 2016, there were 10,500 Filipinos infected with HIV up from 4,300 in 2010, the same report said.
HIV harms the immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. This puts you at risk for serious infections and certain cancers. Not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.
AIDS has its origins in African monkeys and apes. According to one widely accepted theory, HIV started as a disease affecting them. Later, the virus changed and was able to infect humans. A 2014 study suggests the disease crossed over to humans more than a century ago, became a pandemic in 1920s in Congo, then traveled to Haiti in the 1960s and to the United States later. The disease became widespread in the West in the 1980s.
HOW IS HIV TRANSMITTED?
You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use.
Only certain body fluids—blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk—from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur. Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis and mouth.
HIV most often spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person. It may also spread by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person. Women can give it to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.
The first signs of HIV infection may be swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. These may come and go within two to four weeks. Severe symptoms may not appear until months or years later.
A blood test can tell if you have HIV infection. Your health care provider can do the test, or you can use a home testing kit or to find free testing sites in the internet.
DIETS FOR HIV-INFECTED PATIENTS
Having HIV doesn’t have to stop you living a full and healthy life. With the right treatment and care, you can expect to live just as long as someone who doesn’t have HIV.
People living with HIV should aim to eat a balanced diet, without too much fat, sugar or salt. For many people, eating well is a pleasure, and learning how to cook and prepare food for yourself, your family, or friends can be fun.
If you are underweight – perhaps because HIV was already making you ill by the time you were diagnosed – or overweight, or if you have any particular dietary problems or side-effects that make it hard to eat well, then you might benefit from talking to a healthcare professional about your diet.
To make it easier to understand what a balanced diet is made up of, it can help to think about the type of foods you eat.3 Your diet should be made up of:
- plenty of fruit and vegetables to provide fibre, vitamins and minerals
- plenty of starchy carbohydrates to give you energy – such as brown rice, potatoes, whole meal pasta and bread
- some protein such as lean meat, fish, eggs and beans
- some dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese
- small amounts of fats and sugars
There’s no specific eating plan for people with HIV, but an overall healthy diet can help your health a lot.
The virus weakens your immune system. Because your body uses nutrients to keep up its defenses against germs, eating well can help you fight off infections. It can also boost your energy, keep you strong, help you avoid health complications, and ease issues brought on by HIV and its treatments.
TREATMENT WITH LASER
Lasers could be used to combat viruses and infections like HIV without side effects, researchers say.
Current ultraviolet light laser treatments can kill micro-organisms – but cannot be used in humans as they would also damage cells in the body.
But using infrared femtosecond lasers with carefully selected wavelengths, a US team targeted viruses and bacteria without harming other cells.
The Arizona research has reported in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matters.
The technology is called Impulsive Stimulated Raman Scattering (ISRS).
It produces lethal vibrations in the protein coat of micro-organisms, thereby destroying them. The effect of the vibrations is similar to that of high-pitched noise shattering glass.
However, the line of attack can be perfected so that the proteins which coat human cells remain unaffected.
So far experiments have been done on E. coli bacterial cells, Tobacco Mosaic Virus cells, as well as human and hamster cells.
After several attempts, the researchers found a level which “inactivates both viruses and bacteria while leaving sensitive materials such as mammalian cells unharmed.”
Lead researcher Professor Kong-Thon Tsen, of Arizona State University, said: “The research so far suggests that ISRS will be ready for use in disinfection and could provide treatments against some of the worst, often drug-resistant, bacterial and viral pathogens.”
A senior lecturer in pharmaceutical microbiology at Cardiff University, said: “This is quite an interesting technology but it’s at a very preliminary stage and any application in humans is a long way off.”
Meanwhile, an African laser scientist, Patience Mthunzi is now famous for her research and study of lasers as future treatment for HIV.
She explained that with lasers, anti-HIV drugs can be delivered directly within its reservoir sites (affected cells) without drug dilution. “Lasers are not only an effective device on their own,” but target the HIV-infected cells.
“As a matter of fact, we are currently using laser pulses to poke or drill extremely tiny holes, which open and close almost immediately in HIV-infected cells, in order to deliver drugs within them,” Mthunzi explained.
In an experiment, she said that they shine a very powerful but super-tiny laser beam onto the membrane of HIV-infected cells while these cells are immersed in liquid containing the drug. The laser pierces the cell, while the cell swallows the drug in a matter of microseconds. Before they even know it, the induced hole becomes immediately repaired.
Mthunzi said this advanced technology might not seem like much right now. But one day, if successful, this technology can lead to complete eradication of HIV in the body. Yes. A cure for HIV. This is every HIV researcher’s dream — in our case, a cure lead by lasers.
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