You take aspirin for pains and to prevent heart attacks, but the little white pill may also help keep your immune system strong. A new study says aspirin and related painkillers may block the replication of a common virus linked to potentially deadly infections in people with AIDS and other immune disorders.
The presence of the microbe, called human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), in cells is accompanied by a rush of prostaglandins, chemicals in the body that promote pain, inflammation and fever. So, scientists wondered if they could keep HCMV from replicating. Suppressing prostaglandins is easy. That's what so-called painkillers do.
In the latest study, Thomas Shenk and his colleagues tried to prevent HCMV replication in human connective tissue cells with a cox-2 inhibitor. When infected with the virus the fibroblast cells temporarily boosted their production of prostaglandin E2 more than 50-fold. But when treated with the cox-2 inhibitor, the number of virus copies in the cell fell more than 100-fold. "There's a significant block there in the virus production," says Thomas.