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Tick Saliva Could Help Offset Risk Of Heart Disease In People Who Are HIV-Positive

People living with HIV are living longer lives, thanks to medical advancements and wider availability of antiretroviral drugs. This means age-related diseases are now manifesting in these patients with previously unknown effects.

University of Pittsburgh researcher Ivona Pandrea said people living with HIV are twice as likely to develop heart disease, due to a protein that triggers blood clotting and inflammation even after the HIV is treated.

Pandrea and her fellow researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the National Institutes of Health have found that people who are HIV-positive could combat this high risk of heart disease with an unlikely source — an inflammation-reducing property found in tick saliva.

A drug isolated from tick saliva, Ixolaris, is currently being tested as a treatment for monkeys with SIV, the primate equivalent of HIV. The primates treated showed "significantly" lowered levels of inflammatory proteins linked to heart disease, according to a Pitt researchers. Pandrea said she hopes a similar drug will be developed and approved for humans. 

"What we'd like to do is administer this drug in association with antiretroviral drugs that are usually given to the HIV infected patient," she said.

Tick saliva can be gathered for scientific studies with a small tube inserted in the tick's mouth, or by removing the tick's salivary glands.

The research team hopes an Ixolaris alternative for humans will help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives.

(Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

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