team in PLOS ONE.
The team of researchers, led by Dr. Michael
Matthews and Dr. Hartmut Hanauske-Abel,
previously showed that ciclopirox, commonly
used by dermatologists and gynecologists to
treat fungal infections, inhibits the expression
of HIV genes in culture (Retrovirology). The
group now shows that the drug works against
HIV in two ways: It inhibits the expression
of HIV genes and also blocks the essential
function of the mitochondria, thereby reactivating the cell’s suicide pathway. Healthy,
uninfected cells examined during the study
were spared. And the virus didn’t bounce back
when ciclopirox was removed. The research also
found that deferiprone blocks against HIV both
in vitro and in vivo in the same manner.
Hanauske-Abel explains that ciclopirox and
deferiprone both inhibit a cellular protein called
deoxyhypusine hydroxylate (DOHH) in CD4
positive cells, which slows their replication.
DOHH inhibition leads to decreased HIV-1
transcription, which in turn releases virally suppressed apoptosis in HIV-infected cells.
virus from the body. His work is being tested
through the use of a non-human primate form
of HIV, called simian immunodeficiency virus
(SIV), which causes AIDS in monkeys. Picker’s
laboratory approach involves the use of cyto-megalovirus, or CMV, a common virus carried
by a large percentage of the population. Using
rhesus monkeys as models, the team found
that a modified version of CMV engineered to
express SIV proteins generates and maintains
so-called “effector memory” T-cells that are
capable of searching out and destroying SIV-in-fected cells.
T-cells are a key component of the body’s
immune system which fight off disease, but
T-cells elicited by conventional vaccines of SIV
itself are not able to eliminate the virus. According to the research, the SIV-specific T-cells
elicited by the modified CMV were different.
About 50% of the monkeys given highly pathogenic SIV after being vaccinated with Picker’s
vaccine became infected with SIV, but over
time eliminated all trace of SIV from the body.
Following further development, it is hoped an
HIV-form of the vaccine candidate can soon be
tested in humans.
A common antifungal, antibiotic
serves as possible HIV cure
The treatment of patients with HIV has been
revolutionized by the advent of combination
antiretroviral drugs. These drugs are highly
effective at keeping HIV at bay, but they must
be taken for the duration of a patient’s life and
never completely eliminate the infection. The
search for a drug to eradicate HIV has also been
sought after by researchers, and may take a leap
towards reality through research conducted at
In recent research, the topical antifungal
drug ciclopirox, as well as oral chelates iron
drug deferiprone, causes HIV-infected cells
to commit suicide, otherwise known as apoptosis, by jamming up the mitochondria, or
the cell’s powerhouse. Healthy cells commit
apoptosis when infected, and HIV keeps its
host CD4 cells alive by blocking apoptosis and
commandeering the infected cells’ machinery.
And unlike current antiretroviral treatments
for HIV, ciclopirox and deferiprone completely
eradicate infectious HIV from cell cultures,
with no rebound of the virus when the drug is