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Medicine Math

Software To Improve AIDS Survival? 97

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the math-saves-lives dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "There are more than 33 million people living with HIV worldwide. No cure or vaccine has been unveiled this week in Mexico during the International AIDS Conference. Still, European researchers have developed 'a predictive software system for HIV that could help extend the lives of victims of the killer disease.' The scientists working on the EuResist project have combined HIV databases in Italy, Sweden and Germany, creating what is probably the largest database on AIDS and HIV in the world. Armed with information about more than 18,000 patients, 64,000 therapies, and 240,000 viral mode measurements, the researchers have created new mathematical prediction models, which should soon be available to medical researchers and doctors all over the world."
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Software To Improve AIDS Survival?

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  • by ag3ntugly (636404) *
    From what I understand, one of the big things about HIV/AIDS is that it mutates quite a bit and is hard to keep up with, if this project can simulate/predict future mutations, I should think it would be quite useful.
    • by MrMr (219533) on Friday August 08, 2008 @06:16PM (#24532539)
      It's in fact so useful that this method is already available to doctors commercially [vircolab.com].
      But wasting EU subsidies on reinventing a fully functional wheel is probably better than wasting it on something disfunctional.
      • by Iloinen Lohikrme (880747) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @03:33AM (#24535667)
        Virco is a US company and as you mentioned they have a commercial offering. Those two facts are enough for EU to set their own research and development activities in the field as it sponsors European ability to research and compete and it gives national health care services an free non-commercial alternative to use. Just good use of EU money in my opinion.
        • by MrMr (219533)
          Virco is originally a Belgian company. Their research on HIV mutants in the 1990's was done near the university of Antwerp, and later a short drive down the road in Mechelen. This is the EU competing with the EU.
          • Except they were bought by Johnson & Johnson so they are effectively in American hands. Still as I said before I would bet that public health care services all over Europe would rather use a public tool non-commercial tool than one commercial offering.
      • by Urkki (668283)

        It's waste of money only if it's more expensive to buy the commercial product for EU-wide use... So I suspect it's not waste after all, but saving money.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by jd (1658)

      That would be my understanding as well. I believe early attempts at producing a vaccine tried to use de-activated HIV but it was actually able to reactivate itself, but you'd have to dig through the early work to get the low-down on that. The most recent efforts were abandoned the other week, with researchers being quoted as saying they had to go back to square one. NOT the simple problem as presented in Neuromancer! Despite claims to the contrary, there are no known examples of survivors and no known examp

    • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Friday August 08, 2008 @08:04PM (#24533591) Homepage

      Actually said mutagenic properties could be used as a weapon against AIDS instead of trying to counter them.

      Aids dies a few decades after the last uninfected human contracts it.

      Think about it : mutations in the aids virus will mean longer survival for the carriers of the virus, which means more children, therefore more spreading of the virus. AIDS's evolution would have the same goal as human evolution : human survival.

      Hey it's no crazier than carbon trading :-D

      • by bsDaemon (87307)

        Well, that would be true of just about any parasite -- killing the host is bad for business, if you can't find another one.

    • by Moryath (553296) on Friday August 08, 2008 @10:05PM (#24534303)

      about HIV is that it (currently) cannot be transmitted except by very personal means - which is to say, extremely intimate contact with an infected human being and/or injection of their bodily fluids directly into your body.

      Until a mutated "airborne" variation of HIV occurs, the reality is that the vast majority of cases were entirely preventable. While research into how to "treat" the disease is good, actual research into better methods of preventing infection to start with is just as important - both in a medical and sociological sense.

      For one example: the US's frighteningly high incidence of AIDS in female blacks is due almost entirely to promiscuous, non-monogamous bisexual black males [nytimes.com] who've been infecting a large portion of the female black population over the past few decades. Efforts to combat this and get the men to use condoms and regularly get tested - and to stop having sex after they know they are infected - have run into walls in black culture. The problems in Africa in this regard are even worse, with some men actually believing that the "cure" for aids is to have sex with a virgin - and then going and raping young girls, emotionally scarring them for life as well as infecting them.

      If AIDS is going to be combatted, medicinal "cures" and "treatments" are half the battle - they do nothing against the spread of the disease if you can't also convince at least a majority of the infected to stop engaging in activities that will spread it.

      • by Pav (4298)
        The U.S provides much of the internationally available money for AIDS programs. Unfortunately this process has been hijacked (by religious fundies perhaps?). Recipients of this money are forced into concentrating completely on abstinence-only and faithfulness-in-marriage programs... no condoms allowed. See http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/aids/2005/uganda/ [hrw.org] That link is from 2005, and I've listened to recent interviews with AIDS workers complaining bitterly about how this is still the case.
  • Education? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by COMON$ (806135) * on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:50PM (#24532243) Journal
    I am thankful for the sharing of information but after I RTFA it seems to me that this will only benefit individuals in developed countries with health care. What does this do for countries without a health care system where aids is rampant?

    Of course I am a proponent of education being the best way to eradicate AIDS or bring it to a manageable level. There will always be people who will contract it in a truly unpreventable manner. However, in most cases a little caution or healthy set of habits will reduce this dramatically. Reduction in anal sex (2/3 male aids cases are homosexual [cdc.gov]), prolific unprotected sex, and sharing needles are just some off the top of my head. We arent telling people who they can be partners with and we aren't saying they are wrong.

    Of course how do we bring education of this matter to countries were literacy is a luxury?

    • I think saving these people will have the right effect. Some of them will undoubtedly want to give back and perhaps go into AIDS and HIV education. If some of the money saved by lowering health costs could be added to the mix we could have a real net positive beyond just prolonging "normal life" of the afflicted.
    • Re:Education? (Score:5, Informative)

      by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Friday August 08, 2008 @06:17PM (#24532565)
      ...prolific unprotected sex...

      Many if not most of those countries that have the greatest AIDs infections rates have an cultural attitude against condoms, want a woman's vagina to be dry so that it's more pleasurable to the man (I don't get that one), and all in all, have patriarchal societies where women are second class citizens - if one at all.

      There's also ignorance too.

      We can develop the best drugs in the World and give them away but, I'm afraid, it may not have much of an effect in places like Africa.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Many if not most of those countries that have the greatest AIDs infections rates have an cultural attitude against condoms

        Not really. They just haven't completed primary education, are illiterate and may not even know what a "virus" is. They believe in witch doctors and think raping a virgin will cure the illness.

        On of the greatest problems in Africa is how you teach people how to use a condom to protect against aids, since the population can't read and do not understand bacteria or viruses.

        If you call illi

      • it may not have much of an effect in places like Africa.

        It would, however, have a significant effect here -- and for anyone coming here from Africa.

        When did we start trying to fix the rest of the world first? Change starts at home. (Regime change starts at home, too.)

    • by cdrguru (88047)
      Education is pointless when you have government officials dismissing the idea that you get AIDS from sex, as is the case in Africa.

      Education is pointless when the gay community is beset with people that feel AIDS is just something that happens to you. I'm not saying the folks with the "gift giving" [nih.gov] and "bug chasing" mindsets are all that common, but come on! Treating it with privacy, secrecy and protection isn't sensible either - people that have it can spread it, and they do. Sometimes intentionally.

      • by megaditto (982598)

        Why aren't we doing that?

        Political correctness and sensitivity, I bet. It would be very easy to round up and sanitize all the AIDS patients: something like random saliva checks followed by a reversible chemical castration and a discrete implant/ankle bracelet. It could be done rather inconspicuously, combined with an employee urine test, during a breathalyzer traffic stop, or at a DMV photoshoot :)

        But I just don't think most people would go for it. In particular, even though many AIDS victims did "deserve it" by having consentual p

        • It would be very easy to round up and sanitize all the AIDS patients: something like random saliva checks followed by a reversible chemical castration and a discrete implant/ankle bracelet. It could be done rather inconspicuously, combined with an employee urine test, during a breathalyzer traffic stop, or at a DMV photoshoot

          Of course, we could treat it like any other VD - require the doctors to report incidents to Public Health officials, have the Public Health people get a list of sexual partners from th

    • by daveime (1253762)

      What does this do for countries without a health care system where aids is rampant?

      Exactly the same thing as any eventual cure will do for them ... absolutely nothing, as a real cure for HIV/AIDS is the holy grail of pharmaceutical profits for years to come.

      The best they can hope for is Robotussin (thanks to Chris Rock for this suggestion).

    • by geekoid (135745)

      What? It's not 2/3a, it's about half.

    • Circumcision [bbc.co.uk] cuts the chances of contracting aids by 70% during a single sexual encounter. Now this doesn't mean that a man running around practicing unsafe sex is 70% less likely to contract aids, as it would be just a matter of time, but if all the men were circumcised the effect of a single infected woman sleeping around would be a lot less.

      it's already funded [washingtonpost.com] and being offered as a solution

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by daveime (1253762)

        Surely it would just mean that it would take 70% longer for everyone to become infected ?

        I remember watching a documentary once on AIDS, and one particular African guy who KNEW he had the disease but had embarked on a quest to hump every female that moved anyway.

        With that kind of mentality, you are just prolonging the inevitable.

        Education will not work with people that are uneducatable.
        Prevention will not work in a country where there are a million other nasty ways to die (starvation, genocide, Rober Mugabe

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Circumcision [bbc.co.uk] cuts the chances of contracting aids by 70% during a single sexual encounter. Now this doesn't mean that a man running around practicing unsafe sex is 70% less likely to contract aids, as it would be just a matter of time, but if all the men were circumcised the effect of a single infected woman sleeping around would be a lot less.

        it's already funded [washingtonpost.com] and being offered as a solution

        That's great and changes one exponential curve ... into another exponential curve.

        Let's say the uncircumscribed chance of infection of a single encounter is 100% and circumscribed is 30%. Let's also say that people have sex with the same person 10 times and then move on. And let's say people have 5 sexual partners in their lives. The chance of AIDS getting passed with 100% certainty is 100%, the chance with 30% is ... 99.9999940951%. Oh great ... So you can imagine the difference this makes ...

        (I'm assuming

      • all african-americans are circumcised, but those in DC have the highest percentage of AIDS, 18 times higher than the national average... circumcision is bollocks.

      • Condoms cut the chances of contracting AIDS by >99% and - this is the important bit - DO NOT INVOLVE REMOVING THE END OF MY PENIS
    • by antirelic (1030688) on Friday August 08, 2008 @09:07PM (#24533985) Journal

      Not education, software. I know of one particular piece of preventative software that has saved nearly 10 million people from contracting HIV, Chlamydia, gonorrhea, Crabs, Herpes, etc..

      Its called "World of War Craft".

      • by akayani (1211810)
        Maybe we could divert some of the cash being spent on unnecessary drug testing to supply free HIV tests to the developing world. Then again you could add HIV to virtual sex in Second Life. Wouldn't that kill the fun for some.
    • Tax everyone into oblivion to create massive, feel-good education programs that politicians can use to fool people into thinking the politicians are human, and watch them fail to work because the *real* problem is that people just don't give enough of a shit to change their ways.

      Me? Cynical? Damned right!

    • by Renraku (518261)

      Any culture that doesn't adapt is a culture that will die out. Just like in nature, if a species cannot adapt, it will die out.

      AIDS knows no boundary within the human race. Africans, Americans, Chinese, Japanese, etc..everyone is vulnerable. We will either adapt, as a race and as humanity, or we will die out.

      Some cultures don't want to adapt, so some cultures are in clear danger of being wiped out.

  • My tip (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:50PM (#24532253)

    if (location == africa)
        goto anywhere_else

  • "Garbage In and Out."
  • Once this database is setup, I am sure it wont be long until someone taps it...maps it...and publishes it.

    Next step...demonization of the infected.

    Yahoo! :eye roll:
    • by CastrTroy (595695)

      demonization of the infected

      Didn't they make a movie about that? I think it was called 28 Weeks Later [imdb.com]. Or maybe it was 28 Days Later [imdb.com]. Maybe it was I Am Legend [imdb.com]. Oh, now I remember, it was Quarantine [imdb.com].

      Seriously, what is with all the movies about disease that turn people into raging demons?

  • hmmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Wonder how accurate it is. I was just told by the doctor today that my blood test came back positive for HIV. But he was laughing as he said it, so either he was a sociopath or it wasn't serious. He then explained that the second confirmatory test came back negative, and that's the one that's more accurate.
  • Install Norton and hope it doesn't decide to update while you are driving.

    • by Xserv (909355)

      Worried about updates? Shouldn't you be more worried about.. I dunno, Norton running? Although it could be a cure -- you wouldn't have enough resources available to "run" the disease...

  • and they only have 18,000 in their database? Surely there has to be more data available than that?
    • by WarwickRyan (780794) on Friday August 08, 2008 @07:09PM (#24533117)

      Well, the vast majority of AIDs cases are in the third world, where they probably don't have access to databases. Or doctors.

    • Getting the proper amount of people for anything scientific is hard. The number is "low" for a number of reasons (actually, I see it as pretty high):

      - There's rigorous screening or information collection, which is a big deterrent.
      - It has to be voluntary to ally with ethical guidelines, hence everyone has to "opt in" and sign.
      - There is limited compensation since the money has to go to actual science.
      - There is limited compensation to deal with a huge number of resources.
      - That's a combination of only thre

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2008 @07:54PM (#24533539)

    Wait. Why do we want AIDS to survive?

  • I have a better idea. This will cure not only AIDS but all other ailments as well in one fell swoop. Invent a technology that permits downloading the entire brain content of a human being into a computer, and then uploading it into a new clone of that same human being. Now, if you get sick with some sort of disease, or if you get maimed or something, all they have to do is pop your brain content into a new body and voila! You're like brand new again.
  • You know you're reading a news article when a sentence begins with:

    Still, ...

  • Here we go again.. Around and around the mulberry bush. Jesus. You know, the AIDS orthodoxy has been giving us this mathematical computer modeling bull shit for 20 something years but nothing worthwhile prevails , just like no cures, no significant therapies, and certainly not anything nearing a vaccine. More data bases? = More funding. Want to help stop AIDS? Stop the freaking funding, because clearly whatever these lunatics got brainwashed into thinking in the very beginning just AIN'T working. Want b
    • I'm sorry but you're a moron. Nowadays the life expetancy of a 20 year old diagnosed early with HIV is as high as 49 years in some countries. Without treatment it is measured in single digits. In addition people on antiretroviral drugs are dramatically less likely to transmit the disease to others than those who are not. I'd argue that you have fuck all idea what you are talking about and that you hence ought to shut up.

  • A new method for managing a devastating disease is made available and the big issues with it are gay people are scary and yucky and Africa is backward. That is so insightful, informative, and helpful! Retroviruses only happen to people who are bad or live in bad places, so why even bother to study them?

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