An American researcher has identified a new compound which promises to enable an alternative strategy for the prevention of HIV Infection.
Stefan Sarafianos, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology in the University of Missouri School of Medicine and investigator in the Christopher Bond Life Sciences Center, said: "This new compound, EFdA, is 60,000 times more potent than any other drug that is currently being used to treat HIV.
"This compound has a different chemical makeup than other approved therapies and creates an exceptional amount of antiviral activity. EFdA is activated very quickly and stays long in the body to fight the virus and protect from infection."
When HIV enters a person's body it attacks healthy cells that play a key role in keeping the body's immune system strong. To multiply itself and remain in the body, the virus depends on certain proteins. The reverse transcriptase protein is the main HIV enzyme responsible for viral replication. HIV drugs seek to control the virus by blocking the functions of these viral proteins.
EFdA is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTIs). NRTIs target reverse transcriptase and can stop the virus from multiplying and spreading. At present, there are eight clinically approved NRTIs, but they can protect cells for only short periods of time. According to Sarafianos, with EFdA patients could be protected for two days instead of few hours and the drug would not have to taken as often.
He said: "Infection is the result of an overwhelming attack of the virus, but if you manage to keep the viral load low, the body has a mechanism to defend itself and clean up the virus on its own.
"The goal of our research is to drop the virus to very low or "undetectable" levels. Patients with suppressed viral loads will have increased life expectancy. Not all drugs work with all patients, and new resistant viral strains develop. Therefore, it's important to keep adding to our possible options for therapy."
Sarafianos hopes EFdA can also be used as a preventative agent in the form of a vaginal gel or cream. This would provide protection to women whose partners do not use condoms.
Sarafianos' research has appeared in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.