A drug that is designed to combat alcohol addiction could be used as part of a cure for HIV/AIDS. The medication would supposedly be able to activate dormant HIV that is hiding in the body and then kill it.
The drug is known as Antabuse, and its generic form is called disulfiram. The medication was given to 30 patients with HIV in the United States and Australia who were already taking traditional AIDS medication.
Upon taking Antabuse, it was shown that the dormant HIV in the patients was activated. This allowed the virus to be targeted for possible destruction. There were no adverse side effects when taking Antabuse.
Disease expert Julian Elliott said that waking up the virus is only the first step to defeating HIV/AIDS. Now, scientists need to figure out how to actually kill the cells.
When people take traditional AIDS medication, they prevent the disease from being destructive, but they also make it impossible to attack the virus. The virus remains dormant in the body, and while it can be managed, doctors don’t know how to remove it entirely.
By activating the dormant cells, doctors would then be able to take steps towards defeating the virus. However, the danger is that activating the dormant HIV cells would lead to the disease taking over and killing the person. The key is destroying the HIV cells as soon as they are activated.
Drugs that were previously found to activate the cells were said to be toxic in nature. Antabuse is nontoxic and safe. So while more work needs to be done, Antabuse is a good first step.
HIV/AIDS killed roughly 34 million people in the 1980s. It is estimated that more than 37 million people around the world are currently living with the virus. Every year, about two million new people are infected.