August 22, 2000
The supplement NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) is used to treat people suffering from Tylenol (acetaminophen) poisoning. For some people with HIV/AIDS (PHAs), NAC is also a source of the amino acid cysteine, which the body uses to make its own antioxidant called glutathione (GSH). Since HIV infection increases the body's need for cysteine and GSH, it is not surprising that one study has found supplements of NAC beneficial for PHAs. In addition to boosting antioxidant levels, researchers in Italy have found that NAC supplementation improves the ability of white blood cells to produce anti-HIV chemicals called chemokines.
The researchers gave 16 healthy, HIV-negative subjects (5 female, 11 male) NAC at a rate of 600 mg three times daily for two days. Analysis of blood samples revealed that in 12 of 16 subjects, production of anti-HIV chemokines was significantly increased compared to the period before NAC was introduced.
This study may have been more interesting had the researchers also included subjects living with HIV. Nevertheless, these results add to the growing body of information about the potential usefulness of NAC in HIV infection.
Life Sciences 2000;67:147-154.
From Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE). For more information visit CATIE's Information Network at http://www.catie.ca.