Drug Shows Potential to Stop HIV from Spreading

RNA-based drug infiltrates the virus to prevent HIV from replicating.

Scientists recently determined how a new RNA-based drug has the ability to stop the spread of HIV.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota built a study based on prior research that found nucleoside 5-azacytidine (5-aza-C) triggers lethal mutagenesis to block HIV from being able to spread.

The current study, published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, discovered 5-aza-C is able to do this by converting into a DNA form (5-aza-deoxyC).

Converting itself into DNA allows 5-aza-C to infiltrate HIV when the virus turns RNA to DNA. This stops HIV from being able to replicate.

Most currently available HIV medications are DNA-based, however with RNA-based drugs like 5-aza-C, there is a manufacturing advantage because the production of RNA drugs is less costly.

"We now understand the mechanism for how 5-aza-C blocks HIV's infectivity through hyper mutation,” said lead author Louis Mansky, PhD. “This information may aid in developing cheaper HIV drugs.

Researchers believe that RNA-based drugs offer great promise, with increased affordability and the potential to enhance emerging viral infection treatments for conditions such as the Zika virus, Ebola virus, MERS virus, and influenza.

“More than half of the world's HIV population is concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa where there is very limited access to HIV drugs and treatment,” Mansky added. “Our study could lead to developing more cost-effective medication, which in turn could lead to new and more economical treatments for poorer, developing countries."

Although 5-aza-C has already been approved by the FDA for clinical use in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome, it can only be administered intravenously. Researchers hope that the findings will help push for ways to produce an oral form of 5-aza-C.

"While it's not as effective as its DNA-based form, we can use what we know to try mimicking 5-aza-C to discover new compounds that could be more effective, while still being more affordable to produce," Mansky said.