Drug helps purge hidden HIV virus, study shows

“Lifelong use of antiretroviral therapy is problematic for many reasons, not least among them are drug resistance, side effects, and cost,” said David Margolis, MD, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Credit: UNC School of Medicine

A team of researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have successfully flushed latent HIV infection from hiding, with a drug used to treat certain types of lymphoma.

Tackling latent HIV in the immune system is critical to finding a cure for AIDS.

The results were presented today at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington.

While current can very effectively control virus levels, they can never fully eliminate the virus from the cells and tissues it has infected.

"Lifelong use of antiretroviral therapy is problematic for many reasons, not least among them are , side effects, and cost," said David Margolis, MD, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "We need to employ better long-term strategies, including a cure."

Margolis' new study is the first to demonstrate that the biological mechanism that keeps the hidden and unreachable by current can be targeted and interrupted in humans, providing new hope for a strategy to eradicate HIV completely.

In a clinical trial, six HIV-infected men who were medically stable on anti-AIDS drugs, received vorinostat, an oncology drug. Recent studies by Margolis and others have shown that vorinostat also attacks the enzymes that keep HIV hiding in certain CD4+ T cells, specialized that the virus uses to replicate. Within hours of receiving the vorinostat, all six patients had a significant increase in HIV RNA in these cells, evidence that the virus was being forced out of its hiding place.

"This proves for the first time that there are ways to specifically treat viral latency, the first step towards curing HIV infection," said Margolis, who led the study. "It shows that this class of drugs, HDAC inhibitors, can attack persistent virus. Vorinostat may not be the magic bullet, but this success shows us a new way to test drugs to target latency, and suggests that we can build a path that may lead to a cure."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bone marrow can harbor HIV-infected cells (w/ Video)

Mar 07, 2010

University of Michigan scientists have identified a new reservoir for hidden HIV-infected cells that can serve as a factory for new infections. The findings, which appear online March 7 in Nature Medicine, indicate a new ...

Researchers' new goal: Drug-free remission for HIV infection

Mar 05, 2009

A group including leading academic and industry scientists has issued a challenge to researchers in the field of HIV/AIDS: find a way to effectively purge latent HIV infection and eliminate the need for chronic, suppressive ...

Recommended for you

Cambodia orders probe into mass HIV infection

9 hours ago

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday ordered a probe into an apparent mass HIV infection believed to have been spread by contaminated needles, as the number of suspected cases passed 100.

A fresh setback for efforts to cure HIV infection

22 hours ago

Researchers are reporting another disappointment for efforts to cure infection with the AIDS virus. Six patients given blood-cell transplants similar to one that cured a man known as "the Berlin patient" have ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.