FRIDAY, March 19, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- A cheap acne drug that's been used for decades appears to target infected immune-system cells in which HIV lies dormant before coming back to life and spreading infection, researchers have found.
The authors of a new study say the antibiotic drug, minocycline, sold under names such as Minocin, could add to the HIV-fighting powers of existing AIDS drug regimens.
"The big challenge clinicians deal with now in this country when treating HIV patients is keeping the virus locked in a dormant state," Janice Clements, professor of molecular and comparative pathobiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a news release. While existing drugs are "really effective in keeping down active replication, minocycline is another arm of defense against the virus," she added.
Clements said minocycline targets immune cells known as T cells and makes it harder for them to reproduce. That, in turn, makes it harder for HIV to spread and eventually cause AIDS.
"This drug strikes a good balance and is ideal for HIV because it targets very specific aspects of immune activation," Gregory Szeto, a graduate student who works at the Retrovirus Laboratory at Hopkins, said in the news release.
The study findings have been released online in advance of publication in the April 15 print issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a primer on AIDS drugs.