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Heart drugs may slow HIV progression

Heart drugs may slow HIV progression

Statin drugs that lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease may also help slow down HIV, Spanish researchers reported on Monday. Statins alone given to HIV-infected patients suppressed the virus and helped replenish CD4 cells--two key measures of health in patients with the virus. The drugs seem to stop the virus from infecting cells by blocking them from opening the cell membrane; the drugs also stop the virus from getting out of already-infected cells, the team at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research in Madrid reported. "Our results indicate that statins might be suitable antiretroviral drugs for more accessible AIDS treatment," the researchers report in Monday's edition of the Journal of Experimental Medicine. A multidrug regimen called highly active antiretroviral therapy can suppress the virus and allow the immune system to function, but the drugs are expensive and have side effects. One side effect is called lipodystrophy, a series of metabolic changes that can raise cholesterol levels and cause a redistribution of body fat. Patients with lipodystrophy are often given statins. Immunologist Gustavo del Real and colleagues wanted to see if the statins may themselves affect the course of infection. They first tested HIV-infected cells in a lab dish and then in mice. "Results suggest that HIV-1 entry into and exit from the host cell require actin cytoskeleton rearrangement and adequate cholesterol levels in host and viral membranes," they wrote in their report. The cytoskeleton is the structure of the cell itself. Then they tested six people infected with HIV who had not yet begun HAART. They got lovastatin for a month. Levels of the virus fell and CD4-cell counts went up. When the patients stopped taking the statin the viral levels rebounded, the researchers reported. "The data suggest that statins can inhibit HIV-1 replication in chronically infected individuals and support future clinical studies of statins as possible antiretroviral agents," the researchers conclude. (Reuters)

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