Wednesday, February 23, 2011
There are a number of prescription medications on the market to help alcoholics and drug addicts abstain from using, a number of them like Antabuse for alcohol and cocaine addiction, Buprenorphine and Suboxone for opiate addiction. Drugs like these are in no way cures for the disease of addiction but they have helped a number of chemically dependent people refrain from using long enough for individuals to get their feet back on the ground and actively involved with a program of recovery. It turns out that the drug Antabuse may have properties for possibly helping people infected with HIV and may be a step in the right direction in the quest for curing AIDS. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, the Human immunodeficiency virus, the pathogen that causes AIDS, infected 2.6 million people in 2009 and killed 1.8 million - the world’s biggest infectious killer.
A planned 20 HIV- infected people will be selected by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Johns Hopkins University; the infected patients will be given Antabuse. The study will focus on whether or not Antabuse can deplete the pool of residual virus that are not wiped away by regular AIDS drugs, according to details of the study on ClinicalTrials.gov, a registry of trials maintained by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. If Antabuse works at depleting the latent reservoirs of HIV, essentially allowing patients to stop taking the HIV medications without the risk of the disease rebounding. Even if the drug fails at wiping away the latent virus, it will hopefully guide researchers towards another drug that will effectively cure AIDS saving millions of lives.
However, if the drug is successful this is how doctors claim it will work, since AIDS medications, antiretrovirals, can only wipe away the visible virus. Antabuse might block an enzyme called methyl transferase, or DNMT, which helps HIV go to sleep in cells, The Alfred Hospital’s Cameron said. Blocking DNMT would kick start replication, making the virus visible to antiretroviral drugs. Robert Siliciano, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He said he doesn’t expect the drug to cure AIDS, and is looking for clues that will guide future research. They're still trying to determine which properties of Antabuse work at inhibiting methyl transferase. “The mechanism is unknown and likely to be complicated,” Siliciano said in a telephone interview. “We have some ideas but we’re still working on it. It’s possible that this drug will have no activity in patients.”