Anti-Convulsant Might Help Eliminate Dormant HIV-Infected Cells, Study Says; Scientists Say Finding Could Lead to HIV Cure
August 12, 2005
The anti-convulsant drug valproic acid, when used in combination with highly active antiretroviral treatment, has shown promise in reducing the number of dormant cells infected with HIV, a finding that one day could lead to a cure for HIV/AIDS, according to preliminary research published in the Aug. 12 issue of the Lancet, the AP/USA Today reports. Currently available antiretroviral drugs work only when HIV is multiplying, which happens only when it is in an active cell. However, HIV also infects dormant cells, making the virus itself temporarily dormant and undetectable by antiretrovirals. Therefore, an HIV-positive person cannot be cured until all of the HIV-infected dormant cells can be identified and eradicated. In a proof of concept study, David Margolis of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and colleagues gave four HIV-positive patients valproic acid -- which is used to treat such conditions as bipolar disorder and epilepsy -- twice a day for three months. The patients continued taking combination antiretroviral therapy. The researchers found that latent HIV infection reduced by 75% in three of the patients. Margolis said he believes the drug reactivates HIV in the dormant cell (AP/USA Today, 8/11).
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