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New weapon may help flush stealth stashes of HIV in cells

Washington, D.C. The evolving science of "flushing" hidden reservoirs of HIV from cells got a encouraging boost today as researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center demonstrated how an experimental intranasal drug can activate the immune system and send HIV viral counts in white blood cells to undetectable levels.

Published in the latest issue of Peptides, this is the first human study to assess antiviral and immune effects of the experimental therapy, called Peptide T. Although a small trial, it yielded statistically significant data on Peptide T's ability to purify cells housing hidden HIV virus without any harmful side effects. This flushing mechanism gives promise to a new class of viral entry inhibitor drugs as a complement or perhaps even an alternative to the popular but costlier and complicated "highly active anti-retroviral therapies" (HAART) drug regimens.

"Every person in the study took Peptide T, and in each one of them, we observed quite a remarkable phenomenon their white blood cell reservoirs of virus plummeted, some to undetectable levels," said Candace Pert, PhD, professor of physiology, co-discoverer of Peptide T, and lead Georgetown investigator of this study. "We've come a long way and undoubtedly have a ways to go, but the way Peptide T stirred the immune system and flushed the HIV cellular reservoirs is very encouraging to me."

Conceptually, Peptide T could play a valuable role in the fight against HIV. While current anti-retroviral drug cocktails successfully kill active, replicating HIV, the virus also has a frustrating ability to hide silently in cells for an indeterminate time period. A formidable foe, these hidden sources of virus may instantly be triggered and cause the virus to suddenly and aggressively kick start, beginning the chain of events that leads to the progression toward HIV/AIDS.

People with HIV currently remain on HAART drugs long after their virus plasma levels d
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Contact: Elizabeth McDonald
eem6@georgetown.edu
202-687-5100
Georgetown University Medical Center
26-Sep-2003


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