A drug commonly used to purge alcohol from the body may be used to flush HIV out of a patient's system, according to a new study published in The Lancet.
Disulfiram has been used for over 60 years to combat alcoholism by creating a sensitivity to alcohol, but recent lab tests have shown that the drug, along with others, can be used to find dormant resevoirs of HIV in cells that are reactivated when a patient stops ART, according to Medical Daily.
The study, conducted by a group of researchers on 30 patients from The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne and San Francisco General Hospital, showed that short-term use of disulfirum was correlated with an increase in the appearance of HIV RNA, however it was unclear whether the results could be replicated outside a laboratory.
The study however, showed that the drug could be used in a latency-reversing agent (LRA) in a "shock and kill" or "kick and kill" strategy to combat HIV. The strategy seeks to destroy HIV by "kicking" latent strains of HIV out of dormancy to make them more visible to the immune system. Then, using immunotherapy created from the patient's own virus, they hope to coax the immune system into better responding to the newly replicating HIV and "kill" it.
Disulfirum shows promise as an LRA, as it is a well-tolerated drug with a long safety record, though the authors of the study stated that it may need to be used in combination with other LRAs.