A non-toxic drug currently used to treat alcoholism has been shown to activate dormant HIV in human patients.
AsianScientist (Nov. 23, 2015) – Disulfiram, a drug used to treat alcoholism, could be a ‘game changer’ in the pursuit of a non-toxic drug capable of activating hidden HIV in the body so that it can be destroyed, a key strategy on the path to finding a cure for HIV. This is according to a clinical trial conducted by researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and The Alfred Hospital, together with researchers from University of California San Francisco, and published in The Lancet HIV. Disulfiram was given to 30 HIV positive participants on suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART) at increasing doses over a three-day period in Melbourne and San Francisco, and when given at the highest dose, there was evidence that dormant HIV was activated but with no adverse effects. HIV latency, where the virus remains dormant in the body in people taking ART, is one of the biggest hurdles to curing HIV. ‘Waking up’ the virus in these dormant cells and then destroying the cell is a key HIV cure strategy, but finding the exact combination of drugs required remains elusive The leader of the international study team, Director of the Doherty Institute, Professor Sharon Lewin, said that while scientists have been making headway into activating latent HIV, one of the barriers had been the toxicity of the drugs trialed to date. “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. “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 virus in plasma, which was very encouraging.” First author on the paper, Head of Clinical Research in the Department of Infectious Diseases at The Alfred Hospital, Dr. Julian Elliott, said the results from the study were very promising and will now inform the design of further studies to find a way to possibly cure HIV. “The next step is to get these cells to die. Waking up the virus is only the first step to eliminating it,” he said. “This is a very important step as we have demonstrated we can wake up the sleeping virus with a safe medicine that is easily taken orally once a day.” “Now we need to work out how to get rid of the infected cell. A kick-start to the immune system might help. We have an enormous amount still to learn about how to ultimately eradicate this very smart virus.” Approximately 34 million people have died due to HIV-related causes worldwide. By the end of 2014, there were an estimated 36.9 million people living with HIV globally, with approximately two million people becoming newly infected with the virus. The article can be found at: Elliot et al. (2015) Short-Term Administration of Disulfiram for Reversal of Latent HIV Infection: a Phase 2 Dose-Escalation Study. ———
Source: The University of Melbourne. Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff. Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at: http://www.asianscientist.com/2015/11/in-the-lab/melbourne-disulfiram-dormat-hiv/?utm_source=hootsuite
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