Researchers in Zurich report in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that taking regularly scheduled breaks from anti-HIV drug treatment, in the hopes the breaks would boost the immune system to keep HIV under control, is not effective, Reuters Health reports. In a study of 97 patients with chronic HIV disease, the researchers determined that repeated drug holidays reduced the viral levels seen during the breaks only slightly, indicating that the immune system was not being "primed" to recognize and target HIV in the body.
An analysis of the blood of the study subjects also showed that the treatment interruptions did not result in increases in CD8 T cells that specifically target HIV. The researchers conclude that treatment interruptions are "generally unable" to alter how a person's immune system responds to HIV. The study examined only whether immune system improvements could be achieved through drug holidays and did not focus on whether treatment interruptions are harmful for HIV-positive patients seeking short breaks from the side effects and toxicities of their anti-HIV drug regimens.