Medical News

Cholesterol-Lowering Statins May Slow Progression of HIV/AIDS, Study Says

August 18, 2004

Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins given to HIV-positive people "suppressed the virus" and replenished CD4+ T cells, "two key measures of health" among HIV-positive people, researchers from the Spanish Council for Scientific Research in Madrid, Spain, reported in the Aug. 16 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the Washington Post reports. Statins, which are widely used to reduce the risk of heart disease, also are administered to HIV-positive people to treat lipodystrophy, a potential side effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy that can cause metabolic changes, including a rise in cholesterol levels and a redistribution of body fat. After testing statins on HIV-infected cells in the laboratory and in mice, immunologist Dr. Gustavo del Real and colleagues administered lovastatin for one month to six HIV-positive people. Among those people, viral levels decreased and T cell counts increased. When the patients discontinued the statin treatment, their viral levels increased, the Post reports (Washington Post, 8/17). Statins appear to stop HIV from opening the membranes of healthy cells and moving out of already infected cells, thus restricting the virus from infecting new cells, according to the researchers. "The data suggest that statins can inhibit HIV-1 replication in chronically infected individuals and support future clinical studies of statins as possible antiretroviral agents," the researchers concluded (Fox, Reuters, 8/16).

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