Anti-alcohol drug flushes out dormant HIV hiding in the cells, could lead to cure

By @Guneet_B on
Woman protects self from HIV
A sex worker blows a condom for decorating a tram during an AIDS awareness campaign in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata December 1, 2007. Reuters/Parth Sanyal (INDIA)

Finding a permanent cure for HIV/AIDS has been one of the biggest challenges for researchers around the world. Taking a step ahead, a team of researchers from the U.S. and Australia claim to have figured out a way to flush out dormant HIV hiding in the cells.

The researchers said that the popular anti-abuse drug “Antabuse,” also sold generically as “disulfiram,” helps activate dormant HIV and flushes it out from where they are hiding in the infected individual. Through activation, the virus puts themselves at risk of death.

During the small clinical trial, the researchers administered disulfiram to 30 HIV-infected patients in the U.S. and Australia. The patients took the anti-alcohol drug along with the ongoing antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs.

The researchers found that the anti-alcohol drug activated the dormant HIV in infected individuals without resulting in any harmful side effects. The researchers believe that by activating the dormant HIV hidden in the cells, they have taken the first step toward eliminating the deadly virus.

“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 the virus in blood plasma, which was very encouraging,” said Sharon Lewin of the University of Melbourne, reports The Guardian.

HIV infection is kept in control with the help of ART. In patients who are subjected to ART, the virus enters HIV latency, which means it remains dormant in the body of the infected individual. The researchers have long been trying to find a cure for the virus.

According to the United Nations HIV programme, nearly 34 million people around the world have died because of HIV/AIDS. About 2 million new people get infected by the virus each year.

The complete details of the study have been published in the journal The Lancet HIV.

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