University of Kentucky College of Allied Health Professions Associate Dean for Research Vincent S. Gallicchio, Ph.D., has received a patent to test whether current and future anti-viral drug agents can be made more effective when made chemically as a lithium salt.
Lithium is known to have a number of immune enhancing properties and could possibly protect certain cells from toxic therapies. Gallicchio proposes that combining drugs commonly used for AIDS patients with lithium salts could result in fewer toxic side effects and reduce the amount of virus in a person's system by enhancing the immune system.
The drugs, AZT and DDI, currently cause toxic side effects to bone marrow and the pancreas. When these side effects occur, patients either have to take a smaller amount of the drug or stop treatment. The second effect could be that the lithium could cause certain cells with the AIDS virus to die.
"It will remain to be determined whether these new drugs will actually reduce the amount of infectious virus by inhibiting a process that is essential for viral life-cycle," Gallicchio said.
The clinical trials for this study will start this year at the University of Potchefstroom in South Africa. The new treatment is being tested in South Africa because AIDS infects a new person there every 11 seconds. The patent is filed in the United States, Europe, and Africa.