Patients infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) remain on antiretroviral therapy for life because the virus survives over the long-term in infected dormant cells. Interruption of presently available antiretroviral therapy results in a rebound of HIV and clinical progression to Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Researchers have discovered that supplementing this existing antiretroviral therapy with a natural compound, called Cortistatin A, can reduce the potency of HIV, thereby halting the progression of AIDS.
Lead researcher Susana Valente, associate professor at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in the US, said, "Our results highlight an alternative approach to current anti-HIV strategies."
The researchers have detailed that unlike other antiretroviral therapies, Cortistatin A reduces residual levels of virus from the HIV-infected dormant cells, establishing a near-permanent state of latency and greatly diminishing the virus' capacity for reactivation.
Valente said, "Prior treatment with Cortistatin A significantly inhibits and delays viral rebound in the absence of any drug. Our results suggest current antiretroviral regimens could be supplemented with a Tat inhibitor such as Cortistatin A to achieve a functional HIV-1 cure, reducing levels of the virus and preventing reactivation from latent reservoirs."
For the study, the researchers isolated cells from nine HIV-infected patients being treated with antiretroviral drugs. They found that treatment with the natural molecule reduced viral reactivation by an average of 92.3%.
The study is published in mBio.