Cure for HIV infection in humans may become easy as four shots in the arm every year as a recent study found the drug effective in protecting monkeys for weeks after injection.
Study on Macaques
Co-author of the study and virologist at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Centre in New York David Ho, believes the practical and feasible way to prevent HIV infection. Ho and his colleagues studied an experimental drug called GSK744 which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration for HIV treatment and found that it protected macaque monkeys for weeks.
“We believe it’s a very practical, feasible approach to HIV prevention,” stated by Ho according to Nature journal.
GSK744 normally works as an interfering agent against the enzyme used by HIV to insert its DNA into the human genome and blocks the ability of the virus to replicate then simply degrades inside cells.
Due to GSK744 property of “insoluble in water”, the researchers melted it and crystallized it into nanoparticles and suspended it in a solution. Injecting the fluid into the muscle will create a ‘depot’ which will seep slowly into the blood and tissues, including rectum which may last for at least three months.
In order to find out the efficacy of the drug, they used a solution containing a hybrid of the simian and human AIDS-causing viruses then introduced it into the rectum of 16 macaque monkeys once a week for an eight week period.
Then they gave half of the monkeys, two injections of GSK744 within the period while others did not receive any for they were the control group. Within two weeks, all monkeys without GSK744 became infected while the treated group were protected from the viruses.
Ho gave the time frame of three months due to their findings that GSK744 was able to protect monkeys for five to ten weeks, but humans can get even longer protection because of naturally slower metabolism on the drug. In another point of view, GSK744 has an exceptional long half-life of 21 to 50 days with a single dose making the theory three months HIV suppression possible.
Some experts are optimistic about the study results and aims for sooner clinical trials in humans.
“It’s hard to get healthy people to take a pill or put on a salve every day. An injection strategy is a very important avenue to pursue,” infectious-disease specialist Robert Schooley noted.
Director of the U.S. National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also commended the effectiveness of GSK744 on warding off infections exposed through the vagina, supporting strategy for clinical trials in humans.