HIV treatments at present are confined to antiretroviral therapy, but is not considered a real cure because it merely renders the virus dormant in human cells. A breakthrough discovery is now looking at disulfiram, a drug known for treatment of alcoholism, as a potential cure for HIV.
This was revealed in a new research by scientists from the University of Melbourne in Australia as published in The Lancet HIV journal. The anti-alcoholism drug helps a person abstain from drinking. In a biological viewpoint, disulfiram blocks the dehydrogenase enzyme, which functions as an alcohol metabolism agent, as stated in a news article.
Through the research, it was discovered that the anti-alcoholism drug can reactivate HIV cells that lay dormant, making the virus open to being destroyed. Although earlier studies have seen similar effects by using cancer treatment drugs, disulfiram did not exhibit any toxic side effects even in high doses of up to 2,000 mg.
Study lead author Sharon Lewin of The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity said that the alcoholism treatment drug may be the answer that the world is looking for, in terms of an HIV cure. “This trial clearly demonstrates that disulfiram is not toxic and is safe to use, and could quite possibly be the game changer we need,” Lewin said.
Meanwhile, study co-author Julian Elliott said that the action of disulfiram on HIV cells is just the first step, although it’s a big one. “This is a very important step as we have demonstrated we can wake up the sleeping virus with a safe medicine that is easily taken orally once a day… Now we need to work out how to get rid of the infected cell. A kick-start to the immune system might help. We have an enormous amount still to learn about how to ultimately eradicate this very smart virus,” Elliot said.