Disulfiram, the drug generally used to treat alcoholism, could bring a cure for HIV closer say researchers in Australia. The drug, usually prescribed to treat people with alcohol use disorder, discourages them from drinking by blocking an enzyme called dehydrogenase, which plays a role in metabolizing alcohol intake.
Inhibiting dehydrogenase causes acute sensitivity to alcohol and patients will experience a number of unpleasant side effects, including headache, nausea, chest pain, vomiting, weakness, blurred vision, sweating and mental confusion.
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the primary treatment for HIV and helps slow progression of the disease. While the treatment has led to reductions in HIV death rates worldwide, it is not a cure. ART is unable to eliminate HIV from patients completely; the virus can lie dormant in cells, hiding from immune system attack.
Researchers in Australia have shown that disulfiram helped ‘wake up’ dormant HIV cells, allowing them to be destroyed - a ‘shock-and-kill’ approach that researchers believe is key to curing the virus.
The researchers found that by administrating 2,000 mg dose of disulfiram, dormant HIV in patients' cells were woken up without producing any toxic side effects. However, researcher point out that waking the virus is only the first step to eventually eliminating it. They admit that a whole lot more needs to be learned before the virus can eventually be eradicated.