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Drug Combo Blocks HIV Infection in Mice
Date:1/23/2010

Truvada might someday prevent virus in people, researchers say

FRIDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- New research in mice suggests that a commonly used drug combination might protect people from being infected by the AIDS virus through the major routes of transmission.

Previous research showed that the drugs could prevent vaginal transmission. In this study, the medication prevented HIV infection through anal sex and intravenously.

The research raises the prospect that "one single pill once a day, totally available in the pharmacy for patients, can be used to prevent transmission by any mode anywhere in the world," said J. Victor Garcia-Martinez, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and senior author of a study published online Jan. 20 in PloS One.

But there's no guarantee that the drugs will protect people, even though the mice had "humanized" immune systems. And the idea of preventing HIV transmission through medication raises a host of issues.

The drug in question, Truvada, is a combination of the medications tenofovir and emtricitabine. It's used to treat people with AIDS and to stop HIV infection from setting in after exposure to the virus. In hospitals, doctors and nurses sometimes take it after getting stuck with a needle that might be contaminated.

Garcia-Martinez and his colleagues previously found that the drug prevented vaginal transmission of HIV in mice. In the new study, they examined mice known as "BLT" because human bone marrow, liver and thymus cells had been transplanted into their bodies, giving them what the researchers consider to be a human immune system.

Some mice got doses of Truvada and others did not; all were exposed to HIV rectally or intravenously at a higher level than typical in human exposure. Of the 17 mice given Truvada, only one -- which had been exposed intravenously -- became infected.

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