Health Highlights: Dec. 6, 2013
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Men Thought to be Cured of HIV Have Traces of the Virus
Two Boston men previously believed to have been cured of HIV now have traces of the AIDS-causing virus in their blood, researchers say.
The two patients made headlines in July when doctors announced they no longer had any detectable traces of HIV in their body. The men had received stem cell transplants after being diagnosed with the blood cancer Hodgkin's lymphoma, and doctors believed the transplants had enabled the men's bodies to eliminate HIV, CBS News reported.
At the time of the announcement that the men were HIV-free, they had not been taking antiretroviral medications for 15 weeks and seven weeks, respectively.
The discovery that the men now have traces of HIV in their blood, which was announced at an international conference on AIDS research in Florida, indicates that the virus can hide in places in the body where it is difficult to detect.
"This suggests that we need to look deeper, or we need to be looking in other tissues . . . the liver, gut, and brain," said Dr. Timothy Henrich, associate professor of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, CBS News reported.
"These are all potential sources, but it's very difficult to obtain tissue from these places so we don't do that routinely," he explained.
Despite the reemergence of HIV in the two men, their cases provide insight that may help efforts to develop new treatments.
"We go back to the drawing board," Henrich said. "It's exciting science, even if it's not the outcome we would have liked."
Traces of HIV were found in the blood of another man who claimed to have been cured of HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant, but the man claims the viruses are dead and can't replicate, CBS News reported.
A Mississippi baby born with HIV was also determined to be cured of HIV after being given a powerful three-drug infusion within 30 hours after birth. In October, researchers said the baby still appears to be HIV-free.
Nelson Mandela Dies at 95
Nelson Mandela, who endured 27 years in prison until he was released and eventually became South Africa's first black president, has died at the age of 95.
"Our nation has lost its greatest son," South Africa's current president, Jacob Zuma, said in a televised address to the country Thursday night, the New York Times reported. "His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him our love."
Mandela became a symbol of the struggle against a government-sanctioned system of racial segregation and discrimination known as apartheid. Freed from prison in 1990, he became president of South Africa in 1994 and served until 1999. Throughout his imprisonment and the long anti-apartheid struggle, Mandela's insistence on peaceful, non-violent protest galvanized supporters within and outside South Africa.
Mandela largely withdrew from public life in 2004 and had not been seen in public since 2010, when the World Cup was held in South Africa, the Times reported. He had also been hospitalized several times over the past year.
Health Info No Longer Offered with 23andMe Gene Tests
A U.S. genetic testing company has agreed to stop providing consumers with health information while its test is reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.
The decision by 23andMe was in response to an FDA warning letter sent two weeks ago saying that the genetic test was a medical device that requires government approval, The New York Times reported.
The company said it will continue to take orders for genetic tests and will provide consumers with ancestry information and raw data, but no interpretations of the possible health implications of the results.
If the test receives FDA approval, the company might resume providing health data.
"We remain firmly committed to fulfilling our long-term mission to help people everywhere have access to their own genetic data and have the ability to use that information to improve their lives," Anne Wojcicki, the chief executive of 23andMe, said in a statement, The Times reported.