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(Mirror Daily, United States) – A potential breakthrough in the field has been made when researchers found the alcoholism drug that harmlessly ‘wakes up’ HIV and could be the first step toward a cure. For decades, scientists have been looking for a way to completely rid patients of HIV/AIDS. Finally, it seems their efforts have paid off.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne and University of California, San Francisco, have found the first step on the path to a cure. Disulfiram (branded as Antabuse), is a drug specifically made for treating alcoholism. However, it has shown exceptional potential in waking up the dormant virus within the patient.

And, essentially, that is the biggest ‘trick’ of the HIV virus. It has a clever way of backing off, but never leaving.

Patients who test HIV positive often go under treatment on suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART). This doesn’t completely cure or kill the virus, but instead prevents it from growing. It slows down the virus, which essentially prevents it from turning into full-blown AIDS. However, the virus has a clever way of staying within the body in spite of treatment.

It remains dormant within certain cells, reproducing at low-levels that neither the treatment nor the immune system can reach. The HIV virus stays that way until the moment the ART is stopped. And then, it moves out of the shadows and runs rampart once again. Waking up those dormant cells has, thus, been deemed key to a total elimination of the harmful virus.

The problem is that the existing drugs have toxic repercussions on humans. Even though they can kick the virus awake, they will also harm the host.

Researchers, however, found a better alternative in disulfiram. They tested it on 30 patients who were HIV positive and taking ART. The doses were taken orally, increasing in amounts over the course of three days. When they reached the highest amount, it was observed that the virus was stirred awake. This was all without any sort of side effect on the patient.

Essentially, the alcoholism drug managed to wake up the dormant virus without harm. According to Sharon Lewis, from the University of Melbourne, their trials have essentially proven that disulfiram is safe. It could be the potential long-awaited “game changer” needed in the field of curing HIV.

Even more, the dosages they administered to the patients were effective at ‘tickling’ the virus awake, as opposed to ‘kicking’ it. That could be more than enough, especially if they administer disulfiram for more than just three days. It’s an incredibly important first step to get the dormant virus out of slumber. Now, the next one is to kill those infected cells.

It’s the gentlest way found to wake up the virus, without any sort of consequence to the patient. If their following research is successful, it could help the millions of people living with HIV today.