Common Anti-Fungal Cream May Offer HIV Cure, Rutgers U Scientists Find

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The key ingredient is a cream commonly used to treat rashes and other fungal skin infections may prove to be the most effective medicine yet to combat the HIV virus, cause of the deadly disease AIDS.

Scientists at Rutgers University’s New Jersey Medical School found that the drug Ciclopirox, generally prescribed as foot cream, or to treat skin discoloration caused by a fungus, will not only get rid of the HIV virus in cell cultures, it gets rid of the virus permanently.

That makes the drug different from current HIV medications which, though effective, must be taken for the life of the patient. HIV recurs in patients who stop taking those drugs.

The study was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Ciclopriox works by allowing infected cells to die without affecting surrounding, healthy cells. Normally, cells infected with a virus automatically kill themselves to save surrounding cells. But some viruses, HIV in particular, shut off the cell’s built-in self-destruct mechanism.

When that happens, the infected cells allow the virus to multiply and spread to healthy cells. But when an infected cell dies, it takes its unwelcome invader with it.

What ciclopriox does is turn that suicide switch back to the “on” position. That way, a cell infected with the HIV virus simply kills itself before the virus can spread. When tested in a laboratory, the treatment eradicated the HIV virus by allowing the infected cells to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. The healthy cells were left intact.

And most importantly, the HIV infection simply died out. The virus did not return.

The drug has not been tested non humans yet, but because ciclopriox is already approved for human use, researchers are hopeful that the approval process will move quickly.

The Rutgers study, said the university in its announcement of the findings,“may open a new chapter in the fight against HIV/AIDS that moves the world closer to the eradication of HIV-1 infection.”

SOURCES: CNet, Rutgers University, PLOS ONE