Diabetes drug could also be new weapon towards HIV : The Tribune India


New York, March 30th

A team of researchers discovered an important susceptibility of the AIDS-causing retrovirus HIV and demonstrated in preclinical experiments that a widely used diabetes drug, metformin, appears to exploit this susceptibility.

The results, published in the journal Nature Immunology, suggest that when HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infects immune cells called CD4 T cells, it promotes replication by promoting a key process in the production of chemical energy in the cells .

They also found that the diabetes drug metformin inhibited the same process, thereby suppressing HIV replication in these cells in both cell culture and mouse experiments.

“These results suggest that metformin and other drugs that reduce T-cell metabolism could be useful as add-on therapies to treat HIV,” said the researcher from Haitao Guo University in North Carolina.

According to the latest estimates by the World Health Organization, around 38 million people worldwide are living with HIV infection.

Doctors currently treat these infections with combinations of antiretroviral drugs to suppress HIV replication. However, despite this treatment, many patients show signs of residual virus replication and immunodeficiency.

Even patients who respond well to antiretroviral drugs must continue to take them indefinitely, as HIV inscribes itself in the DNA of some infected cells and the drugs cannot clear this viral genetic “reservoir”. In addition, the toxicity of anti-HIV drugs means that many patients can only take them intermittently. Therefore, despite advances, there is still much room for improvement in HIV treatment.

For the study, the team analyzed CD4 cell gene expression data from a study of HIV-infected individuals and found that the gene expression patterns most closely related to poor outcomes in these patients involve an energy production process called oxidative phosphorylation.

They then found that drugs and other chemical compounds that inhibit oxidative phosphorylation in CD4 cells can inhibit HIV’s ability to replicate in those cells.

With further experiments in primary human CD4 cells and in mice with human CD4 cells, the team confirmed that metformin suppresses HIV replication in these cells.