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Also In Global Health News: Latent HIV; Nanovaccine Delivery; Investing In Disaster Preparedness In Pakistan; Gates Foundation Funding Journalism

Researchers To Test If Alcohol, Cocaine Addiction Drug Can Reduce Latent HIV Reservoirs

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Johns Hopkins University are recruiting patients to examine whether a drug prescribed to treat alcohol and cocaine addiction can reduce the amount of latent HIV among HIV-positive patients already taking combination therapy, Bloomberg reports. “The researchers plan to add [the drug] Antabuse to the patients’ regular cocktail of AIDS drugs for two weeks, then check their blood after 24 weeks to see whether it has depleted the amount of latent HIV,” according to the news service. The trial is expected to conclude in June 2012, according to ClinicalTrials.gov (Bennett, 2/22).

Scientists Develop Nanovaccine Delivery Systems

“MIT scientists have worked out how to encase potent vaccines in nanoparticle shells – creating nanovaccine delivery systems, a trick that could have serious implications in fighting difficult-to-kill viruses like HIV,” Fast Company reports (Eaton, 2/22). “The new particles, described in the Feb. 20 issue of Nature Materials, consist of concentric fatty spheres that can carry synthetic versions of proteins normally produced by viruses,” according to an MIT press release. Darrell Irvine, author of the paper and an associate professor of materials science and engineering and biological engineering at MIT, said the “synthetic particles elicit a strong immune response – comparable to that produced by live virus vaccines – but should be much safer” (2/22). The technology has been “tested successfully in mice, and worked to convert large numbers of T-cells to act as vaccine,” Fast Company adds (2/22).

U.N. Official Calls On Pakistan To Invest In Disaster Preparedness

During a five-day visit to Pakistan on Tuesday, Margareta Wahlstrom, U.N. special envoy for disaster risk reduction, called on the Pakistani government to invest now on mechanisms to protect the country from future natural disasters, Agence France-Presse reports (2/22). “The damage caused by the recent floods cost Pakistan an estimated US$ 8.74 billion to US$10.85 billion – approximately one-third of the country’s 2009-2010 budget,” according to a U.N.-Oxfam press release (.pdf). “The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have said an investment of only $27 million in disaster risk reduction mechanisms can greatly reduce losses from future disasters,” the release states (2/22). “Pakistan cannot afford to risk its future and lives of its people by being ill-prepared,” Wahlstrom said, according to AFP (2/22).

Seattle Times Looks At Gates Foundation’s Funding Of Journalism

“Better-known for its battles against global disease,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “has also become a force in journalism,” the Seattle Times writes in an article that asks: “How can reporting be unbiased when a major player holds the purse strings?” The article looks at several media outlets that have received Gates funding to cover global health issues and notes that “the foundation also supports a dizzying mix of organizations whose goals include influencing media coverage.” Joe Cerrell, who oversees policy, advocacy and communications work in Europe for the foundation, said, “We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure people understand not just the need, but the opportunity, to make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people around the world. … For us, it’s about making sure that these stories get told.” Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media, culture and communications at New York University, said of the foundation’s influence, “Even if we were to satisfy ourselves that the Gates Foundation were utterly benign, it would still be worrisome that they wield such enormous propaganda power” (Doughton/Heim, 2/19).

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