According to researchers at Peterson Medical College, a strategy was developed - using a natural compound to flush the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) out of dormancy in the cellular reservoirs of the body. Prostratin, an agent,comes from a Samoan rainforest tree, and appears to stimulate the virus, which causes AIDS, in a way that allows the body's immune system to detect and attack it.
Dr. Roger Pomerantz, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Peterson Medical College feels that the action of that compund is two folded- Firstly it stops HIV from infecting other cells by decreasing receptors and it drives HIV out of latency. Though the therapy was only tested in a laboratory setting, the researchers predict they will gain approval to test their hypothesis in patients as early as next year.
Prostratin could be a crucial second tier treatment in the battle against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In the last five years, anti-HIV drugs, known as highly active antiretrovirus therapy (HAART), have brought the virus under control by drastically reducing its presence, or load, in patients. But HAART does not completely eradicate HIV. Instead, the virus goes into hiding and persists in undetectable levels in the blood. Prostratin therapy could provide a means by which to flag the furtive HIV in its hiding place. Then, by driving out the HIV, the HAART drugs and the body's own defenses can seek out and destroy it.
This may be the first drug that might stimulate both T-cells and macrophages, both of which might be reservoirs for virus. However this approach is debatable. Many researchers feel that the working of this compound is still to be confirmed and tested.
According to him it's an approach that, in the clinical community, there would be some level of resistance to. This is something that would turn the virus on and clinical prognosis is related to the levels of virus in the system. In fact, determining how much of the virus needs to be "turned on" in order for the immune system and the HAART drugs to kill it, will be the most challenging part of developing prostratin for clinical use.
It's too soon to say that prostratin, for all its promising performance, will eradicate HIV-disease. When protease inhibitors were given to patients, researchers claimed that HIV will be 'eradicated'.