HIV leads to a complex disorder that combines a chronic activation of the immune system with a progressive decrease in the number of T-cells, which are involved in immune response. If the number of T-cells falls below a certain level, the weakened immune system is less able to fight infections, and the symptoms of AIDS develop.
New research shows a drug that suppresses the immune system can delay the onset of AIDS in patients with HIV.The drug prednisolone, taken without any antiviral therapy, postponed the loss of T-cells that leads to AIDS for two to 10 years in 50 percent of HIV patients. Patients were found to have T-cell counts higher than they did at the start of the trial. Only 5 percent of patients who did not take prednisolone had this positive outcome.
After five years, more than 10 percent of the patients taking prednisolone had higher T-cell counts than they did at the start of the trial compared to virtually no patients in the control group. The drug was particularly effective in patients who initially had low levels of HIV in their body. Despite suppressing patients' immune response, prednisolone did not cause the HIV virus to replicate more vigorously.
Researchers also point out that prednisolone is an inexpensive drug, and its side effects were mild when a low daily dose was given.