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New Drug Shows Promise in Fighting HIV

Agent based on natural compound blocks fusion peptides and thwarts virus entry

THURSDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- A new drug based on a compound produced by the human body appears to block fusion peptides and halt an early stage of HIV infection by thwarting interaction between the virus and host cells, according to research published in the Dec. 22 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Wolf-Georg Forssmann, M.D., Ph.D., of Hannover Medical University in Germany, and colleagues examined outcomes in 18 HIV-infected volunteers after 10 days of treatment with three different doses of VIR-576 as their first antiretroviral drug. None of the subjects stopped taking working drugs to participate in the trial. VIR-576 is a derivative of a natural 20-residue fragment of α1-antitrypsin, designated virus-inhibitory peptide.

The researchers found the highest dose of VIR-576, 5.0 g/day, reduced the average viral load by 95 percent. Although the drug was well tolerated, it had the drawbacks of being expensive and, as it is given by injection, inconvenient.

"Our results are proof of concept that fusion peptide inhibitors suppress viral replication in human patients, and offer prospects for the development of a new class of drugs that prevent virus particles from anchoring to and infecting host cells," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies and/or patents on VIR-576.

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