Antabuse, a treatment for cocaine addiction and alcoholism, is now being examined as a possible tool to help eradicate HIV, report researchers from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU). Advertisement
Twenty HIV-positive people are being sought for a study to assess whether Antabuse (disulfiram) is able to eliminate the remnants of leftover HIV that standard AIDS drugs cannot, according to information on the study at www.clinicaltrials.gov, a database kept by the National Institutes of Health. The trial is being led by UCSF Professor of Medicine Steven Deeks.
The study is rooted in yet-unpublished experiments on the outcome of Antabuse on dormant HIV by Robert Siliciano, a professor of medicine at JHU. While the drug is not expected to cure HIV/AIDS, it may provide a roadmap for future research, he said. "No single drug is likely to be able to eliminate these reservoirs," said Siliciano. "It's going to come down to some sort of combination of agents."
Current AIDS drugs do not fully eradicate HIV -- the virus circumvents detection by disabling replication in cells until patients reach undetectable levels. If they discontinue their medication, however, HIV reappears aggressively. In the trial, Antabuse will be added to the subjects' standing AIDS drug combinations for two weeks. Their blood will be reassessed after 24 weeks to look for any depletion of the amount of latent HIV.
Paul Cameron, a clinical immunologist at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital who is not involved in the study, theorizes that Antabuse could deter an enzyme aiding HIV's dormancy in cells, initiating replication while patients are still taking their antiretrovirals. The virus would leave and destroy its host cell, making its way into the bloodstream seeking new cells to infect, but be blocked by the drugs. Without new host cells, the virus would expire within hours.
According to the database, the trial began this January and will end in June 2012.
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