Lupus and HIV connection

A Duke University research team published study results on Monday that revealed the immune system of a patient with both lupus and HIV made neutralizing antibodies, which is essential for an effective vaccine response.

The patient has systemic lupus erythematosus, which causes the immune system to attack the body. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, said few people develop antibodies against HIV.

“Over the years we have searched for and now have found one person with SLE who was also chronically infected with HIV to determine if this person could make broad neutralizing antibodies,” Barton Haynes, the director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and senior author of the study, said. “We found that the patient did indeed make these important antibodies, and by determining how this immune response occurred, we have enhanced our understanding of the process involved.”

Haynes said he discovered that some broad neutralizing antibodies cross-reacted with tissues. These autoreactive antibodies were kept under control by immune tolerance controls that sense antibodies and prevent them from reproducing.

Haynes’ theory was the immune system labeled the antibodies as harmful and worked to eliminate them, providing an escape mechanism for the disease. The research team theorized that when the body’s immune system is compromised with an autoimmune disease, immune tolerance controls are defective and broad neutralizing antibodies are reproduced.

“The cross-reactivity of the broad neutralizing antibody with dsDNA was very surprising and provided support for the hypothesis that broad neutralizing antibodies are similar to the autoantibodies that arise in lupus patients who are not infected with HIV,” Duke Assistant Professor of Medicine Mattia Bonsignori said.

Bonsignori said that patients with lupus are not immune to HIV and still should avoid contracting the disease.

“Our study of this person with SLE and HIV has been critically instrumental in our understanding of the unusual biology of the remarkable host control of antibody responses to the conserved broad neutralizing sites of the HIV envelope,” Bonsignori said. “We are hopeful that these insights in lupus will aid in our implementation of strategies for designing experimental vaccines capable of overcoming the host tolerance control of broad neutralizing antibodies.”

Study Suggests Lupus Headache Does Not Exist

A new study has been published that suggests that lupus headache do not exist.  I’m going to have to say that I find some of these kind of studies to be a waste of time.  I guess you can say a headache is a headache is a headache regardless of if you have lupus or not.

I, however, have definitely experienced a “lupus headache”.  This headache was, of course, completely ignored by my specialists and I was written off as just having a plain old headache.  Until I had brain seizures.  Then all of a sudden I guess it was a real lupus headache.

Studies like this do nothing to help lupus patients.  It seems rather dismissive by the medical profession to say that it doesn’t exist.  Typical of our wonderful medical system.

The phrase “lupus headache” may be a misnomer, new research suggests. In a prospective examination of 1,732 individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), clinician-investigators found a 58% headache prevalence over 10 years. However, only 1.5% of these individuals met the criteria for lupus headache and 96.3% of these cases resolved independently from lupus treatments.

Pain Medicine News – Study Suggests Lupus Headache Does Not Exist.

Treating lupus with cannabis

IMG_20140228_152049

I have pain and inflammation with my lupus, but I really don’t want to take NSAIDs anymore.  One natural alternative is to use cannabis to treat some of the symptoms of lupus.  I typically try to buy cannabis that is high in CBD as opposed to THC.

Why cannabis?

Cannabis is considered an ideal medication to help Lupus patients cope with the symptoms of the disorder like nausea and pain. It’s also known to be an anti-inflammatory, suppressing certain parts of the immune system.

By lowering the levels of the inflammation-promoting protein interleukin-2, and raising levels of the anti-inflammatory protein interleukin-10, cannabis shows that it may be beneficial for treating autoimmune disorders where inflammation is the main complication.

There is no doubt that cannabis has some medicinal benefits, and helps patients to cope with symptoms of Lupus. On the contrary, medical cannabis is only legal in a number of states. The naturally grown “drug” remains illegal on a federal level, so one should consider the law and its consequences before deciding to self-medicate. Even if you live in a state where cannabis is legal medicinally, always consult your doctor before using cannabis to treat your condition.

What is CBD?

CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, the cannabinoid second only to THC when it comes to average volume. Recently, research has shown CBD to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties without the psychoactive effects (the “high” or “stoned” feeling) that THC provides. While high THC strains often tout levels of over 20%, generally, CBD levels of over 4% are considered to be high.

Obamacare and Lupus

emilie lamb

There have been a number of paid for advertisements and media spots covering the story of Emilie Lamb, a lupus sufferer whose life was supposedly ruined by Obamacare.    These spots were paid for by Americans for Prosperity which is a conservative think tank.  The ads state that:

Since 2006 Emilie received health insurance through CoverTN, which provided her with the affordable care she required for the numerous Emergency Room visits and surgeries she has had to endure to treat her chronic illness. Left without any other choice, Emilie signed up for Obamacare and as a result her monthly insurance premiums increased by 700 percent.

But if you did deeper into this story you will actually find that Lamb didn’t have private insurance.  Instead she was on a sponsored health care program that covered only 16,000 people that was cancelled last year because it had a $25,000 annual limit on benefits and the new federal health law doesn’t allow annual expenditure caps.  The state applied for a waiver, but didn’t get it, but also didn’t consider expansion of Medicaid since the state’s system has been run by Republicans since 2011.

She now states that instead of $52 a month, she has to pay $373 a month premiums.  She did choose to go for a gold plan, so presumably she could’ve gotten a cheaper plan with a higher co-pay.  The plan, however, is significantly better with no annual expenditure limits.  This could be really beneficial if she lands in the hospital whereas on her previous plan it would’ve been financially devastating if she ended up in the hospital and from her claims of how often and how sick she is I find it hard to believe that she wouldn’t end up in the hospital at some point…

There are also reports (again, in conservative news) about high drug costs for specialty drugs for MS or lupus patients.

Personally I have had neither of these issues affect me with the Affordable Healthcare Act aka Obamacare.  I have actually found that some of my drug costs have decreased and I get free birth control now which is a nice change from the $20 a month I was shelling out previously.  My healthcare plan is paid for by my employer for which I am eternally grateful, but I did pay my own plans for over a year and was paying out at about $500 a month.  My current plan is with Aetna in California and I have been pleasantly pleased with them.

Do you have lupus and have you had Obamacare affect your insurance?  I’d love to hear about it.

To read more about the Emilie Lamb case:  http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2014/feb/13/does-americans-prosperity-ad-about-woman-lupus-tel/