Sunday, April 11, 2010

Minocycline - Effective defense against HIV ?

We know that Minocycline hydrochloride, also known as minocycline (structure), is a broad spectrum tetracycline antibiotic, and has a broader spectrum than the other members of the group. It is a bacteriostatic antibiotic. It is primarily used to treat acne and other skin infections as well as lyme disease. It may be used to treat certain strains of MRSA infection and disease caused by drug resistant Acinetobacter. Its also used in DMARD (Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drug) for RA. 

Now, Johns Hopkins scientists have found that this safe and inexpensive antibiotic (minocycline),   effectively targets infected immune cells in which HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, lies dormant and prevents them from reactivating and replicating. 

As per the claim by the researchers, minocycline, likely will improve on the current treatment regimens of HIV-infected patients if used in combination with a standard drug cocktail known as HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy).  Though HART is really effective in keeping down active replication, minocycline is another arm of defense against the virus. 
Dr. Janice Clements lead researcher claims that,  unlike the drugs used in HAART which target the virus, minocycline homes in on, and adjusts T cells, major immune system agents and targets of HIV infection. and  minocycline reduces the ability of T cells to activate and proliferate, both steps crucial to HIV production and progression toward full blown AIDS. 

The idea for using minocycline as an adjunct to HAART resulted when the Hopkins team learned of research by others on rheumatoid arthritis patients showing the anti-inflammatory effects of minocycline on T cells. Interestingly the same researchers earlier found that  minocycline treatment had multiple beneficial effects in monkeys infected with SIV, the primate version of HIV. In monkeys treated with minocycline, the virus load in the cerebrospinal fluid, the viral RNA in the brain and the severity of central nervous system disease were significantly decreased. The drug was also shown to affect T cell activation and proliferation.  

The team used molecular markers to discover that minocycline very selectively interrupts certain specific signaling pathways critical for T cell activation. However, the antibiotic doesn't completely obliterate T cells or diminish their ability to respond to other infections or diseases, which is crucial for individuals with HIV. Researchers conclude that,  this new understanding about minocyline's effects on a T cell  might help to find even more drugs that target its signaling pathways.

At Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, scientists are now testing whether giving HIV patients minocycline benefits them, let us hope for the positive results....

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