Doctor fined €210K over illegal AIDS tests

A Spanish HIV researcher will have to cough up €210,000 after he was caught performing unauthorized medical tests on 311 patients using a powerful new compound thought to lessen the side effects of AIDS treatment.

Doctor fined €210K over illegal AIDS tests
Soriano, a world-leading investigator and author in the field of HIV and AIDS, lost all his appeals except one. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Spanish doctor Vicente Soriano, who works at Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital, was found guilty by the city’s Supreme Court of Justice of conducting a clinical trial without the approval of Spain’s Agency for Medicines and Health Products.

They also found him liable for failing to obtain insurance for the medical trials and lying to patients when claiming he had been given the green light by the hospital to perform the tests.

Soriano, a world-leading investigator and author in the field of HIV and AIDS, lost all of his appeals except the one in which he claimed not to have withheld information from the hospital’s managers.

His unauthorized investigations looked to establish whether HIV patients with undetectable levels of the virus in their blood could be treated with raltegravir, a powerful new compound known to have fewer side effects.

Even after being found guilty, Soriano has continued to claim he carried out “observational studies” on an already commercialized product rather than a clinical test that requires authorization from official medical bodies, online medical newspaper reported on Thursday.

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Spanish scientists make breakthrough identifying HIV resistance gene

A rare genetic mutation that causes a form of muscular dystrophy affecting the limbs also protects against HIV infection, Spanish scientists reported Thursday.

Spanish scientists make breakthrough identifying HIV resistance gene
Photo: peshkova/Depositphotos

The breakthrough comes a decade after American Timothy Brown, known as the “Berlin Patient,” became the first person cured of HIV after a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a mutation of the CCR5 gene.

The newly-discovered mutation concerns the Transportin 3 gene (TNPO3) and is far more rare. 

It was identified several years ago among members of a family in Spain who were suffering from type 1F limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.   

Doctors studying the family learned that HIV researchers were interested in the same gene because it plays a role in transporting the virus inside cells.   

Role of TNPO3 in HIV infection (credit: Rodríguez-Mora S, et al., 2019).

They then got in touch with geneticists in Madrid, who took blood samples from those family members and infected the blood with HIV — revealing a welcome surprise.   

The lymphocytes — white blood cells that are an important part of the immune system — of people with the rare muscular illness were naturally resistant to HIV, it emerged.

“This helps us to understand much better the transport of the virus in the cell,” Jose Alcami, a virologist at the Carlos III Health Institute and co-author of a paper published in US journal PLOS Pathogens on the subject, told AFP.   

HIV is among the most studied viruses, he said, adding however that much remained to be learned, such as why five percent of patients who are infected do not develop AIDS.

“There are mechanisms of resistance to infection that are very poorly understood,” he said.

READ MORE: Spanish team develop biosensor to detect HIV within a week of infection