Inexpensive Acne Drug Keeps HIV Dormant
Researchers have found that an inexpensive antibiotic used to treat acne can stop HIV from progressing to full blown AIDS. The findings come from Johns Hopkins researchers who discovered that the antibiotic minocycline can prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS because it prevents HIV cells from replicating, keeping them in a dormant state.
Standard treatment for HIV includes Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). Minocycline, added to HAART can improve treatment of patients infected with the HIV virus. The antibiotic is safe and can be used long term without concerns about antibiotic resistance.
“The powerful advantage to using minocycline is that the virus appears less able to develop drug resistance because minocycline targets cellular pathways not viral proteins,” says Janice Clements, Ph.D., Mary Wallace Stanton Professor of Faculty Affairs, vice dean for faculty, and professor of molecular and comparative pathobiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Dr. Clements adds that keeping HIV in a dormant state is one of the biggest challenges for clinicians treating patient infected with the virus. “While HAART is really effective in keeping down active replication, minocycline is another arm of defense against the virus.”
Minocycline targets T cells rather than the HIV virus, unlike drugs used in HAART treatment. If a patient fails to take antiretroviral drugs, HIV can reactivate. Minocycline targets the infection , reducing HIV’s ability to reactivate and replicate.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins explored minocycline for HIV treatment after finding that the acne drug had an anti-inflammatory effect on T cells. The scientists also conducted studies previously showing that the antibiotic had benefits for macaques infected with SIV, the primate equivalent of human immunodeficiency virus.
Gregory Szeto, a graduate student in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine working in the Retrovirus Laboratory at Hopkins says, “Since minocycline reduced T cell activation, you might think it would have impaired the immune systems in the macaques, which are very similar to humans, but we didn’t see any deleterious effect. This drug strikes a good balance and is ideal for HIV because it targets very specific aspects of immune activation.”
When the researchers tested minocycline in the lab on human HIV cells they found that the antibiotic caused interruptions in signals that are crucial for activating T cells where the HIV virus hides waiting to reproduce, causing progression to AIDS.
“HIV requires T cell activation for efficient replication and reactivation of latent virus, so our new understanding about minocyline’s effects on a T cell could help us to find even more drugs that target its signaling pathways”, explains Clements.
Minocycline, an antibiotic used to treat acne keeps HIV dormant, and that’s the goal. Patients infected with HIV and on HAART therapy would keep HIV from progressing into full blown AIDS.