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Immunosuppressants might aid fight against persistent HIV infection

Written by | 15 May 2014 | All Medical News

by Bruce Sylvester – Emerging uses of FDA approved drugs – Immunosuppresant drugs used to prevent organ rejection after transplantation could become used in fighting persistent HIV infection, researchers reported on April 3, 2014 in the American Journal of Transplantation.

“Current therapies fail to cure the disease as they do not attack those viruses that remain hidden within the immune system,” said Steven Deeks, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Deeks and his research team hypothesized that immunosuppressant therapy might reduce inflammation that appears to be associated with the persistence of  HIV within the immune system.

They developed a study evaluating how immunosuppressant therapy affects HIV. They enrolled 91 HIV-infected, immunosuppressant-treated transplant patients who were followed for a median of 3.2 years post-transplant.

Using a series of blood samples, they found that HIV was well-controlled following transplantation and during long-term exposure to immunosuppressive drugs.

Notably, they found that subjects treated with the specific immunosuppressant drug sirolimus had fewer blood cells infected with HIV over time. Sirolimus modifies the activity of T cells, and some T cell functions have been linked to factors believed to contribute to HIV persistence.

The investigators concluded that that immune-modifying drugs such as sirolimus might affect the level of HIV persistence.

“Based on the observations in this study, the NIH is now sponsoring a targeted study to see if sirolimus might indeed contribute to a cure of HIV infection,” said Dr. Deeks.

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