DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University researchers and physicians are set to launch
a multi-pronged attack against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and will
employ clinical strategies never before tested.
Using a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, two sets
of experiments will be conducted that aim to annihilate HIV from infected
patients as much as possible, and to then rebuild their immune system.
During the process, Duke researchers hope to increase science's understanding
of how the virus reacts to both drug treatments and novel forms of reconstituting
"We are pushing the envelope of what is known and what can be imagined
in effective therapy," said Dani Bolognesi, director of the Duke Center
for AIDS Research, and an expert on the virus. "While we can't predict
HIV will be totally eliminated from patients, we hope to be able to help
them keep the virus under control while restoring their health."
Bolognesi has assembled a team of basic scientists and physicians from
across the medical center campus to treat volunteer patients.
The four-year grant is known as a Strategic Program for Innovative Research
on AIDS Therapy (SPIRAT), and involves two protocols.
The first protocol will enroll 24 patients who are HIV-positive, and who
agree to be treated and followed for more than two years. All the patients
will receive a potent mixture of anti-viral drugs that includes AZT, 3TC,
and ritonavir. AZT and 3TC are nucleoside analogues, which interrupt a step
in the virus's life cycle when its genetic material is inserted in a host
cell's gene. Ritonavir, a protease inhibitor that received FDA approval
earlier this year, kills HIV by crippling an enzyme crucial to its survival,
a mechanism different from other anti-viral compounds.
The three drugs are expected to reduce the "viral load" or the
amount of HIV in patients' b
Contact: Renee Twombly
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