Study to weigh potential of genetic testing in larger HIV patient population
A team of researchers at East Tennessee State University received a grant this year to study the possible connection between genetic traits and side effects of a drug used to treat HIV, according to a news release from the school published on WKPT-19’s website.
“Right now, there are more than one million people diagnosed with HIV in the United States,” said Dr. Sam Harirforoosh, associate professor at the Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy at ETSU in Johnson City and principal investigator for the project. “Currently, there are 25 medications available to treat HIV and a number of combinations of those drugs.”
One combination, Stribild, was approved to treat HIV in 2012 by the Food and Drug Administration. Nonetheless, the fixed-dose, once-daily tablet has caused adverse side effects in some patients.
“Some people show some kidney dysfunction from taking this medication. Sometimes people do not respond to medicine the way we are expecting,” Harirforoosh explained, noting that other side effects may include liver impairment and gastrointestinal issues. “We are trying to understand if genetic makeup influences these responses to the medication.”
Common side effects of Stribild include, but are not limited to, abnormal dreams, elevation of proteins in the urine, and headaches. Infrequent side effects include, but are not limited to bone fractures, kidney disease, depression, and drowsiness. The website WebMd.com offers a more complete list of side effects of Stribild and other medications.
Through a $50,000 university Research Development Committee Interdisciplinary grant, Harirforoosh and his colleagues will study the effects of Stribild in 120 HIV patients.
A single blood sample will be taken from each consenting patient and studied to determine what, if any, correlation exists between the concentration of Stribild components in the blood, the side effects a patient experiences, and that individual’s genetic makeup, says the WKPT article.
In addition to genetic makeup, the researchers will examine environmental factors as well as physiological factors – age, gender, weight and more – that might influence the drug’s effects.
“We are hoping to find this relationship between side effects and genetic makeup in order to prevent those side effects in people by offering them other medication options,” Harirforoosh said.
“We want to equip medical professionals with the tools to better care for patients,” he added. “The results of this study may do that. And this is just the beginning. We want to continue this with a broader study examining genetics.”
Indeed, a broader study would be required before any definitive connection could be made between genetics and adverse effects from use of Stribild. Still, the research could yield results which indicate, at least, if the investigators are on the right track.
All five researchers of the interdisciplinary research team are members of ETSU’s Center of Excellence for Inflammation, Infectious Disease, and Immunity.
“Everybody brings a particular expertise to this project,” Harirforoosh said. While the study is multifaceted, he added, ultimately “we are hoping our research will prove beneficial to the community.”