ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – A drug that is used to combat alcoholism may also be able to detect dormant HIV in the body, according to a new study.
Researchers gave the drug Antabuse, also sold as a generic disulfiram, to 30 HIV positive individuals who were also taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) AIDS drugs, as reported by Fox News.
When patients were given the highest dose of the drug, researchers found that “dormant HIV was activated” with no adverse effects.
Officials say detection of the dormant virus is only the first step, the next issue is killing it. HIV latency, the dormancy of the virus in the body, is a huge obstacle to finding a cure for the viral infection that has killed over 34 million people since the 1980s.
“Treatment for HIV is often called antiretroviral therapy or ART. It can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV and lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers are still searching for the right balance of drugs to help “wake up” the virus in dormant cells and then destroy them.
Sharon Lewin, lead author of the study, says the toxicity of the drugs used to detect dormant HIV has been a major concern. However, researchers are optimistic as the use of disulfiram did not appear to cause this issue.