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A New Policy for HIV and other Infectious Disease

What if there was a cure for major infectious diseases that came straight out of a Hollywood horror movie? Well there just might be. Scientists at the University of Minnesota, other institutions and a host of pharmaceutical companies are working on strategies to encourage the mutation rates of viruses. Well this may sound like a recipe for a disaster to a non-virologist; it may actually be the solution for controlling the effects of mutation, which thus far we have not been able to successfully combat. Since viruses such as HIV and influenza already mutate rapidly it is costly both in term of time and resources to adapt drugs. West Nile virus is concerning specifically for that reason. If the virus was able to mutate and be transmittable by human to human contact it would have the potential to cause a pandemic; a crisis that the world is so drastically under prepared for, by the way.

But what if instead of fighting the virus you worked with it -- giving it an idea for a mutation that in the end would kill it. In effect the drug would have the molecular structure of the virus but one molecule of the DNA would be out of place, a defective gene. Once that defective gene was able to replicate, the actual make-up of the virus would be so different and there would be so many mistakes in the DNA that it would be terminated.

Clinical trials are still a long way away. Just like with chemotherapies for cancer, scientists need to determine what would be a proper dosage so that you combat the disease but not kill the patient, (since there is the risk of killing unintended cells) along with collecting the background data that explains why the mechanisms are working.

Despite the time it may take to develop these solutions, a treatment of this kind could have an enormous effect on health policy.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs or the University of Minnesota. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota or the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.