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Local researchers seek subjects in "smart-PrEP" study
by Matt Simonette
2017-09-13

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Researchers with Cook County Health & Hospitals System ( CCHHS ) are seeking volunteers for a study researching the effectiveness of a "smart-PrEP" capsule intended to help improve patient adherence.

The capsule consists of the medication Truvada—the only such medication approved for a PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, intervention—encased within a sensor capsule. When that capsule is ingested and makes contact with gastric fluids, it emits a signal used to record adherence.

Dr. Gregory Huhn, CCHHS' associate professor of infectious diseases and principal investigator of the trial, said in an Aug. 1 statement, "The electrical signal is less than the frequency of a heartbeat, so nobody is going to feel it. But it transmits a signal in real-time that the pill has been ingested."

Researchers are seeking about 100 young men between the ages of 16-24, an age demographic advocates and researchers consider especially at risk for HIV-infection.

"Adherence—by that I mean, taking PrEP daily as instructed—is so critical," said Jennifer Brothers, project director at CCHHS' Hektoen Institute of Medicine. "We know if people take at least 4 pills of PrEP a week, they will achieve a high level of HIV protection. But the number one factor or determinant of whether one is adherent is age. So if we can provide a tool that provides real-time patient support with real-time adherence monitoring for adolescents, who are least adherent, we could make great strides in HIV prevention."

Huhn said that the patch the research subjects wear in order to transmit the readings will also read heart-rates, sleep-patterns and other fitness measures, adding, "It's not just about emphasizing HIV-protection, it's also about emphasizing health and well-being."

Those interested in participating in the study should contact Brothers at 312-864-8008.


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