A drug originally made by Merck & Co. (MRK) to treat a rare cancer has been found to purge and attack latent HIV in a small study, giving a potentially big advancement to the quest for a cure. (STAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Follow Kapitall on Twitter)
Merck’s drug Zolinza was used in a trial with six men with HIV who were also taking drugs to subdue the virus, according to Bloomberg. When HIV is subdued, it stays latent in CD4 T-cells. If a patient stops taking the daily medication, the virus will exit and kill the immune cells it was hiding in.
In the study, Zolinza worked to rouse up and purge the latent virus from the immune cells, with no serious side effects. Although the patients weren’t cured, theoretically other AIDS drugs “patrolling the body would prevent it from [killing the immune cells], and with nowhere left to go, the virus would die.” (via Bloomberg)
Currently HIV drugs such as Gilead Science’s (GILD) once-daily pill Atripla work to reduce HIV to undetectable levels in the body, but the virus still hides in a latent state.
David Margolis at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill who led the study says he is expecting to hear from the FDA over the next couple of weeks for approval of another study with more doses of Zolinza.
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Written by Alexander Crawford.