Recent research suggests that there is a glimmer of good news for those with HIV. The virus HIV has proven over many years to be particularly tenacious to treat. When in the body, it often hides inside cells where it is beyond the reach of current medicines. Now there may be a way to change that.
Out of Hiding
Scientists have long been looking for ways to pull HIV out of its dormant state where it hides inside cells. When it is in the cells, it is out of reach of current medicines. Some medicines showed promise in this goal, but they proved to have too many serious side effects. So, they could not be used.
In a surprising turnabout, a medicine used in treating alcoholism seems to have efficacy. The medicine, Antabuse, which is known generically as disulfiram, is normally used in alcoholism treatment. This drug causes people to vomit when they have alcohol. This is its intended purpose for alcoholics to reduce their drinking.
It was discovered that this same medicine had an unexpected side effect of causing HIV to come out of cells and into the bloodstream. This was very good and exciting news. Once in the bloodstream, HIV can be attacked by a wide range of antiretroviral medicines.
Up to Now, Treatment for Life
Before this discovery, people with HIV needed to plan to take antiretroviral medicines for life. This is because they could never be certain when dormant HIV, meaning HIV hiding inside of cells, would become active. With disulfiram, the patients can force HIV out into the open where a limited round of antiretroviral medicines can finish it off.
The non-toxic disulfiram treatment was only needed for three days. This was enough to have a marked increase in the virus in blood plasma. The limited duration is very inspiring for doctors and patients alike.
More Work to Do
Despite this good news, there is more work to be done. The virus HIV is not easy to combat. The antiretroviral drugs simply stop it from multiplying. They do not kill the virus. Eliminating the virus is another area of research that needs much more work.
Perhaps Ramped Up Immune Systems
Some speculate that disulfiram needs to be combined with drugs to energize the immune system. A multi-pronged approach with both antiretrovirals to control replication of the virus along with medicines to help the human body’s immune system fight back against HIV. This is one option of study among many for completely eliminating the virus.
Treatment is Only One Side
While these are promising treatment options, there is a broader scope of effort needed. Studies show that while deaths resulting from AIDS are declining, the infection rate of the epidemic is declining slower. This shows that patients are living longer and not succumbing to AIDS, but the number of people with HIV is still growing.
The Long Fight Continues
Since the early 1980’s much has been accomplished and learned about HIV. Indeed, this virus has opened up whole areas of research and knowledge in medicine due to its nature as a retrovirus. These days, treatment options are becoming more promising. Patients with access to medical care no longer equate HIV with a “death sentence.” However, perhaps more effort is needed in reducing the rate of new infections.
- Dormant HIV has proven difficult to treat.
- Some medicines initially appeared effective, but they had too many side effects.
- Disulfiram treats alcoholics by causing them to vomit when they consume alcohol.
- This same drug caused HIV to come out of cells and into the bloodstream.
- The end of treatment with antiretroviral for life is in sight.
- Three days of the alcoholism medicine was enough.
- Good news, but more to do.
- A multi-pronged approach of flushing HIV out of hiding combined with attacking it in several ways is probably needed.
- Treatment is reducing deaths, but the epidemic is not yet controlled.
- Reducing new infections is as equally important as finding new treatment options.
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