STUDY OF FIV AND METHAMPHETAMINE USE COULD LEAD TO TREATMENTS AGAINST AIDS
COLUMBUS - An Ohio State University researcher plans to use a unique viral infection in cats to learn how drug abuse can accelerate the debilitating effects of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and AIDS. The project would use a naturally occurring virus - feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) - as a surrogate for the disease in humans.
While some earlier research has looked at a virus in primates -- simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) -- as a model for the study of AIDS and HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus which causes the disease, SIV presents researchers with challenges that the feline virus does not, explained Michael Podell, an associate professor of veterinary clinical sciences, otolaryngology and neurosciences at Ohio State.
Podell says that both HIV infection in humans and FIV infection in cats cause a slow degeneration of the nervous system over a prolonged time (years) as the virus thrives in the body. He believes this study could help scientists learn more about the mechanisms at the root of this debilitating and brain damaging disease complex.
A significant proportion of the HIV-infected population is also known to take methamphetamines and similar stimulants that over time can also cause destruction to the nervous system. Podell wants to study how the methamphetamine use and FIV infection may work together over time to intensify the disease progression.
Methamphetamine users tend to be young "weekend abusers," Podell says, people from all income levels and who also often tend to be less careful in protecting against sexually transmitted diseases. Both behaviors are considered to be high risk for contracting and potentially transmitting the HIV virus.
The rate of HIV infection has increased alarmingly, Podell says, reaching the current estimated level of 11 new people contracting the virus every minute worldwide. He said that there is an exponential growth of methamphetamine abusers in this country, with counts of 4 million or more in selected regions of the United States.
The project proposed by Podell was in response to a specific program announcement requesting applications by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health. His proposal has passed a rigorous review by Ohio State's Institutional Lab Animal Care and Use Committee and is being reviewed by officials at NIDA.
Contact: Earle Holland (614) 292-8384.