Compound Identified to Activate Latent HIV

Compound targets latent HIV proteins without harming other parts of the body.

Compound targets latent HIV proteins without harming other parts of the body.

Researchers have identified a compound that may kill treatment resistant HIV.

Currently, the most effective treatment is highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), which has helped millions manage the infection. Unfortunately, once HAART stops, latent HIV activates within the body. This requires patients to stay on HAART for an indefinite amount of time, and can lead to serious toxicity side effects.

While HAART has been very successful in reducing HIV infection, it is not enough to cure the disease, because these inactive strands of HIV are resistant to HAART. Scientists at UC Davis have identified PEP005 as a compound that activates latent HIV, making it susceptible to HAART.

"It is really exciting is that the molecule in Picato is already approved and being used by patients," said lead author Satya Dandekar. "In addition to being very effective in reactivating HIV, it also works beautifully with other latency reactivating agents, is less cytotoxic, and doesn't cause a major immune response."

PEP005 is revolutionary in that it increases HIV activation, while showing few side effects. It targets the latent HIV proteins without effecting other parts of the body, such as over-stimulating the immune system and activating unwanted proteins.

The identification of PEP005 helps scientists get a step closer to finding a vaccine for HIV. A vaccine, while it may not completely prevent transmission of the disease, would help patients' immune systems and the ability to fight off the virus.

"We've made great progress, but at the end of the day you still have more than 30 million people walking around with HIV," said Dandekar. "Without drugs, the virus can come back at the same threat level for patients. Eradicating HIV is extremely critical.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.