A medicine used to treat alcoholism could prove to be a cure for AIDS. The study is still in its infancy though.
Disulfiram is a drug that is commonly used to treat alcoholism. However, it could prove to change the rules when it comes to HIV and the AIDS virus. For one thing unlike other drugs it is not toxic.
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This is according to a clinical trial conducted by researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and The Alfred in Melbourne, Australia, together with researchers from University of California San Francisco, USA, and published in The Lancet HIV today.
Over 30 patients harboring the HIV virus were given the medicine. The study lasted a total of three days. Even when the dosage of the drug was at its highest, the HIV virus was activated but no apparent harm occurred as a result. This is a modern day miracle of sorts.
The leader of the international study team, Director of the Doherty Institute and a world leader in cure research and clinical management of HIV, University of Melbourne Professor Sharon Lewin, said “This trial clearly demonstrates that disulfiram is not toxic and is safe to use, and could quite possibly be the game changer we need.”
“The dosage of disulfiram we used provided more of a ‘tickle’ than a ‘kick’ to the virus, but this could be enough. Even though the drug was only given for three days, we saw a clear increase in virus in plasma, which was very encouraging.”
The issue that lies before scientists is to wake up the dormant HIV virus in the cells in order to destroy it. And the right drugs to pinpoint and kill off the virus is also a hurdle of sorts.
But now it seems some kind of breakthrough might just have been made. The toxic nature of many drugs remains the biggest drawback so far. This is not the case with disulfiram. It is non-toxic and thus the perfect thing as a treatment for AIDS.
Disulfiram probably disturbs the virus in the cells instead of jolting it violently. This is its biggest beneficial effect. A cure for HIV is on the top of the agenda of many developed countries. Now it seems to be reaching a conclusion of sorts. And it is all thanks to this wonder drug.
All that is required is to bring the cells to consciousness and then kill off the viral agents as fast as possible. The safety of the medicine was a stumbling block. But nothing could be safer than disulfiram. We have yet to learn a lot about the ins and outs of the whole shebang. It will take some time before the issue is resolved in a safe and sound manner.
But the preliminary study is fruitful in itself and may lead to further forays into the field of cancer research and immunology. The HIV virus is a very clever entity and subject to mutations time after time.
The gentle yet sure method of administering dosages of disulfiram will ensure that soon AIDS and the HIV virus will have gone the way of malaria and small pox. There was a time when these diseases spread terror in the hearts of men, women and children. But today they are hardly even visible since they have been conquered by the healing arts and the world of medicine.
First Author on the paper, Head of Clinical Research in the Department of Infectious Diseases at The Alfred, Dr Julian Elliott, said, “The next step is to get these cells to die. Waking up the virus is only the first step to eliminating it.”
“This is a very important step as we have demonstrated we can wake up the sleeping virus with a safe medicine that is easily taken orally once a day. Now we need to work out how to get rid of the infected cell. A kick-start to the immune system might help.
“We have an enormous amount still to learn about how to ultimately eradicate this very smart virus.”
Professor Steven Deeks from the University of California San Francisco, a collaborator on the trial in the USA said, “Most groups are seeking for a powerful weapon to shock the virus out of its hiding place. These approaches may prove to be harmful.
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“I see disulfiram as a more gentle way to accomplish this same goal, particularly if we can show it works when given over a long period of time.”