HIV/Aids

08 June 2006

New drug may cripple HIV

A prototype drug aimed at overcoming HIV's growing resistance to existing antiretroviral treatment will enter human trials this month, New Scientist reports.

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A prototype drug aimed at overcoming HIV's growing resistance to existing antiretroviral treatment will enter human trials this month, New Scientist reports.

PA-457 is the first of a new class of pharmaceuticals called maturation inhibitors.

They target the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by attacking a conical shield called the capsid protein, which stores and protects the genetic heart of viral particles as they bud from infected immune cells.

Exposes the virus core
If the cone is disrupted, the virus's genetic core is exposed, effectively crippling the pathogen and making it unable to infect other cells.

PA-457 will be tested among 48 patients with HIV whose existing drug regimens are failing because of resistance, the British weekly reports in next Saturday's issue.

Part of the group will receive PA-457 and the other part a harmless look-alike call a placebo. All will continue with their standard antiretroviral drugs.

PA-457 has already been found to be highly effective on lab-dish cells that are infected with resistant strains of HIV.

Success in initial trials
And in a small human trial, the drug rapidly cleared most HIV from the blood, driving down levels tenfold in a matter of hours.

That research, which is still continuing, focused on use of PA-457 on its own. The new trial will see how the drug performs in combination with other HIV drugs.

In both cases, much wider trials are needed to assess PA-457 for safety and effectiveness. It will take several years before the drug becomes generally available provided these targets are met.

PA-457 is being developed by Panacos Pharmaceuticals of Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. – (Sapa-AFP)

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June 2006

 

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HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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