According to a new research, HIV can be flushed out of its hiding places in the body using PEP005 – one of the ingredients in a treatment to prevent cancer in sun-damaged skin.
The cornerstone of treatment, anti-retroviral therapy, kills the virus in the bloodstream but leaves “HIV reservoirs” untouched.
The study, published in PLoS Pathogens, showed PEP005 was “highly potent” at reactivating hidden HIV.
The power of the HIV reservoir was shown with the case of the Mississippi baby.
The baby girl was given antiretroviral drugs at birth. Despite appearing to be free of HIV for nearly two years after stopping treatment, she was found to be harboring the virus.
A strategy known as “kick and kill” is thought to be key to curing HIV – the kick would wake up the dormant HIV allowing the drugs to kill it.
The team at the Davis School of Medicine investigated PEP005. They tested the drug in cells grown in the laboratory and in parts of the immune system taken from 13 people with HIV.
The report said “PEP005 is highly potent in reactivating latent HIV” and that the chemical represents “a new group of lead compounds for combating HIV”.
One of the researchers, Dr, Satya Dandekar, said: “We are excited to have identified an outstanding candidate for HIV reactivation and eradication that is already approved and is being used in patients.
“This molecule has great potential to advance into translational and clinical studies.”
However, PEP005 has still not been tested in people who are HIV-positive.