Al­co­holism drug can ‘wake up dor­mant HIV to be killed’: Study

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

LON­DON: Sci­en­tists seek­ing a cure for the AIDS virus have made an un­ex­pected dis­cov­ery with a drug de­signed to com­bat al­co­holism which they say could be a crit­i­cal part of a strat­egy to “wake up” and then kill dor­mant HIV hid­ing in the body. The drug, branded as Antabuse but also sold as a generic called disul­fi­ram, was given to 30 HIV pos­i­tive pa­tients in Amer­ica and Aus­tralia who were al­ready tak­ing an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy (ART) AIDS drugs.

At the high­est given dose, there was ev­i­dence that “dor­mant HIV was ac­ti­vated”, the re­searchers said in a study pub­lished in The Lancet HIV jour­nal on Mon­day, and with no ad­verse ef­fects. Ju­lian El­liott of the depart­ment of in­fec­tious diseases at The Al­fred in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, who worked with Lewin, said wak­ing up the virus was only the first step to elim­i­nat­ing it. “The next step is to get th­ese cells to die,” he said.

HIV la­tency, where the virus re­mains dor­mant in the body in peo­ple tak­ing ART, is one of the big­gest hur­dles to achiev­ing a cure for the vi­ral in­fec­tion that causes AIDS. HIV/AIDS has killed some 34 mil­lion peo­ple since the 1980s, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions HIV pro­gram UNAIDS. HIV can be held in check by ART, and by the end of 2014 an es­ti­mated 36.9 mil­lion peo­ple around the world were liv­ing with the virus. Some 2 mil­lion peo­ple a year are newly in­fected. Sci­en­tists say find­ing ways of “wak­ing up” the virus in th­ese dor­mant cells and then de­stroy­ing them is a key cure strat­egy, but re­searchers have so far been un­able to find the ex­act ef­fec­tive com­bi­na­tion of drugs.

Sharon Lewin, a Univer­sity of Mel­bourne pro­fes­sor who led the work, said that while sci­en­tists have made head­way into ac­ti­vat­ing la­tent HIV, one of the main con­cerns is the tox­i­c­ity of the drugs tri­alled. With disul­fi­ram, how­ever, this did not ap­pear to present a prob­lem, she said. “This trial clearly demon­strates that disul­fi­ram is not toxic and is safe to use, and could quite pos­si­bly be the game changer we need,” she said in a state­ment. “The dosage of disul­fi­ram we used pro­vided more of a tickle than a kick to the virus, but this could be enough. Even though the drug was only given for three days, we saw a clear in­crease in (the) virus in (the) plasma, which was very en­cour­ag­ing.” — Reuters

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