Even when patients with AIDS do not have the herpes virus, taking Valacyclovir (a drug that is prescribed normally for genital herpes) can improve their condition, by reducing the levels of HIV viruses in their cells.

The lead author of the study, Leonid Margolis (head of the Section of Intercellular Interactions at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the US), pointed out that the results are highly encouraging and the test should be repeated with larger groups of patients. If new tests confirm the findings so far, Valacyclovir could be included in the drug combination used to neutralize the HIV virus, especially in cases where the virus has become resistant to other kinds of drugs – Leonid Margolis declared on Friday.

The results of this study were published by Margolis and his team in the British journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases. Experts from four centers (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Washington, Case Western Reserve University, Emory University, and the Civic Association for Health and Education in Peru) were involved in the research.

Previous studies had already shown that Valacyclovir is efficient in decreasing HIV levels in patients who suffered from both AIDS (caused by the HIV virus) and genital herpes (caused by the herpes simplex virus 2 – HSV-2). But it was believed that the lower HIV levels were due to the smaller numbers of immune cells which could carry HIV, which in its turn was explained by Valacyclovir’s action against HSV-2. Now, the researchers tested the hypothesis that reduced HIV levels in patients treated with Valacyclovir are due directly to the medication’s effect against HIV’s reproductive mechanism.

To verify that this is the case, the specialists studied 18 patients in whose cells the HIV virus was present, but the HSV-2 virus was not. 9 patients took the drug twice every day in the course of three months, while the other 9 were administered a placebo. The two groups were switched after half a month, and the placebo group was given Valacyclovir, while the first group received a placebo. The HIV virus levels in the patients’ blood increased and decreased considerably according to whether they were on placebo or on Valacyclovir – the patients who took the drug in the interval when they were tested had less HIV viruses than the patients who were on placebo. This indicates that Valacyclovir has a direct impact on HIV levels, regardless of the presence of HSV-2. Scholars hope that further study will confirm the discovery, in order to improve the lives of the 35 million people currently living with AIDS.

image source: wikipedia