Fungal Drug Forces HIV Suicide


Norbert: So when is a drug's side effect a good thing?

Dave: When it restores your missing hair?

Norbert: Funny guy... wish I was so lucky. Anyway, you know the drug Ciclopirox?

Dave: Yes, it's a topical normally prescribed for nail fungus.

Well, researchers have discovered a side effect of the Ciclopirox is that it kills HIV-infected cells, at least in petri dishes. That could open a whole new door to HIV research, because right now HIV therapies control viral replication, but don't kill infected cells. That's why people have to stay on these drugs for life and that's very expensive.

In the US, the therapies cost ten to twelve thousand dollars a year. So, scientists are motivated to find a cure. The researchers found Ciclopirox not only inhibits HIV gene expression, it also reactivates an infected cell's ability to commit suicide.

Our cells innately defend against the spread of viral infection by destroying themselves, but HIV blocks this pathway. The anti-fungal drug restores an infected cell's suicide path by stopping the function of its mitochondria, a cell's energy source. Remarkably, when the drug was removed from the cultures, there was no resurgence of HIV indicating the cultures no longer harbored the virus.

Researchers plan to study whether applying Ciclopirox topically during sex may reduce HIV transmission. More importantly, can a pill form of the drug kill infected cells throughout the body?

The same researchers are testing a second drug called Deferiprone, which reduces iron in people who have too much of it. This drug also leads to the suicide of HIV-infected cells. As researchers look into other classes of drugs that trigger a cell's suicide pathway, this approach may offer a whole new opportunity to one day defeat HIV.

More Information

Drug-Induced Reactivation of Apoptosis Abrogates HIV-1 Infection
PLOS One scientific journal article by Hartmut Hanauske-Abel, et al

Can a foot cream really do battle with HIV?
"A drug commonly prescribed to treat nail fungus appears to come with a not-so-tiny side effect: killing HIV in cell cultures."

Drug Is Found to Eradicate HIV Permanently from Infected Cells
"The topical anti-fungal drug Ciclopirox causes HIV-infected cells to commit suicide by jamming up the cell's powerhouse, the mitochondria according to a study by researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School."