The HIV virus is one of the worst and most life threatening viruses in the world today and approximately 33 million people around the world are infected with HIV. The global AIDS pandemic kills about 2 million people every year. Even today there is no cure for HIV or vaccines to protect against it. This virus is particularly life threatening compared to other viruses because it attacks the body’s immune system. Once the HIV virus totally overcomes an individual’s immune system the individual gets AIDS. HIV takes about 10 years to turn into AIDS but the time for HIV to transition into AIDS largely depends on an individual’s health and diet. HIV is treated through the use of a mix of antiretroviral drugs that have to be taken daily to suppress the numbers of the virus. Unfortunately this treatment is expensive and an individual must take the medications for the rest of their life in order to survive. In this article we will take a look at some of the latest drugs that have been developed recently and drugs that are set to come out in the near future to treat the HIV virus . Drugs that are frequently used to treat the HIV virus are separated into 3 different categories which are entry inhibitors, Intergrase inhibitors, and antiretroviral (NRTI’s and NNRTI’s).
Entry inhibitor drugs
Entry inhibitor drugs are designed to bind to certain protein receptors on cells that the HIV virus uses to gain entry. Thus by already binding with the protein of the cell that the HIV virus uses to gain entry it denies the HIV virus entry to the cell. However the problem with these drugs is that they can’t block all strains of the HIV virus. The next entry inhibitor drug to be released is called PRO 140 but, as it is only in Phase II of drug trials, it may be sometime before the drug is released. PRO 140 consist of artificially engineered antibodies that are to be injected with a needle every month as they would be destroyed if digested. PRO 140 looks very promising though from what has been seen so far from the test. In one study 60% of the individuals given a larger dose saw a 100-fold decrease in HIV. Although still in drug trials, the FDA has already designated PRO 140 for fast-track approval.
The next group of drugs used to treat HIV are known as Intergrase inhibitors. Intergrase is an enzyme that is produced by HIV and is crucial in the early stages of HIV replication. Intergrase inhibitor drugs act to block this enzyme and to help prevent the HIV virus from replicating itself. A new Intergrase inhibitor drug called Elvitegravir is currently being tested and is in Phase III drug trials that are expected to end in late 2010. Elvitegravir has so far been found to be most effective when used with small doses of another drug called Ritonavir. The combination of the two will most likely have to be administered once daily.
Antiretroviral NRTI’s and NNRTI’s
The last group of drugs that are used for antiretroviral treatment. These drugs are separated into NRTI’s (nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors) and NNRTI’s (non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors). Here’s the simplified way of how these drugs work. HIV can’t replicate on its own and so it uses human cells to convert its RNA to DNA. To change RNA into DNA HIV uses a compound to join the RNA together. Like a zipper of a jacket RNA is joined together to create double stranded DNA. What NRTI’s and NNRTI’s do is that they act to block the first connection of the “zipper” and prevent HIV DNA from being formed. The next NNRTI drug is called Rilpivirine and is expected to finish phase III trials in August 2010. Rilpivirine could become one of the most common drugs to treat HIV because it appears to be as effective and have less side effects compared to the current favorite NNRTI drug Efavirenz.
It is most likely that the HIV virus, in the future, will continue to be treated with a cocktail of these various types of drugs. After decades of research and tremendous amounts of funding we still haven’t been able to cure the HIV virus. However with our ever developing understanding of the HIV virus, and the introduction of new powerful drugs, we are farther than we have ever been before in putting an end to the global HIV epidemic. If you would like more in depth information about HIV, AIDS, or information about HIV treating drugs follow the links.