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Drugs Used in Transplant Can Combat HIV Infections

Update Date: Apr 03, 2014 03:04 PM EDT

Transplant drugs are used to stop a body from rejecting a new organ that has been surgically placed. In a new study, researchers examined another potential effect of transplant drugs. They reported that these drugs might be able to help combat the incurable human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

"Current therapies fail to cure the disease [HIV] as they do not attack those viruses that remain hidden within the immune system," said Steven Deeks, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco.

In this study, Deeks and his team set out to test the effectiveness of using immunosuppressant therapy in treating HIV. This type of therapy reduces inflammation. The team focused on immunosuppressants that are most commonly used by kidney transplant recipients. The researchers recruited 91 HIV positive transplant recipients and collected their blood samples. The patients were tracked for a median of 3.2 years after the transplant.

Based from the samples, the researchers found that immunosuppressant therapy was capable of maintaining HIV. For patients who took a specific immunosuppressant called sirolimus, they had a lower number of cells that were infected with HIV.

"Based on the observations in this study, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) is now sponsoring a targeted study to see if sirolimus might indeed contribute to a cure of HIV infection," said Dr. Deeks according to the press release. "Our study highlights the potential synergies that can occur when two very different disciplines merge their talents and resources. We feel that the transplant community has much to teach the HIV community about the potential role of strong immune-suppressing drugs in curing HIV disease."

The study was published in the American Journal of Transplantation.

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