A new study done by researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School has shown that a common foot cream has the ability to destroy cells infected with HIV. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE and expands upon previous research showing that the antifungal drug inhibits HIV growth in cell cultures. Now we know that Ciclopirox, a synthetic, anti-fungal foot cream used by dermatologists, may be the key to eradicating the spread of AIDS in our lifetime.
The treatment of patients infected with HIV/AIDS has dramatically improved in recent years with the introduction of combination anti-retroviral drugs. Unfortunately, this current method of controlling the spread of HIV in a patient’s system is less than ideal because the patient needs to take the drugs for life. They do not actually eradicate the virus from the patient’s system. Also, if the patient stops taking the drugs, the virus can return aggressively. Other issues with current methods of treatment include the extremely high cost of medication, negative side-effects, and the potential for the virus to develop resistance to the drugs if dosages are missed.
HIV is a retrovirus that primarily attacks the human immune system. A retrovirus is a specific type of virus that replicates itself by invading the host cell’s own DNA. The host cell replicates the viral DNA along with its own genes, which creates new copies of the virus for it to spread throughout the target’s system. Without a host cell, the virus would not be able to replicate itself. Normally, when a cell is infected, it triggers a suicide reaction causing the cell to destroy itself in order to stop the infection from spreading throughout the host. The HIV infection is especially insidious because the virus inhibits this natural suicide mechanism.
The research on Ciclopirox has shown extremely promising results. Not only does it inhibit the expression of the virus’s genes in host cells, it also acts to block the infected cell’s mitochondria resulting in the reactivation of the host cell’s normal suicide response. Since mitochondria are responsible for generating a cell’s energy, the inhibiting of their function allows the cells to destroy themselves. Healthy cells surrounding them are not affected. Perhaps most exciting part is that the virus does not return once the drug is removed from the system. This active ingredient in common foot cream may be the way we eradicate AIDS.
The drug is in early trial stages and has not been tested on human patients, but the prevalence of Ciclopirox, already utilized as a foot cream, means that the drug development process could be expedited. The potential usages for such a drug vary widely. Patients could use the cream as a preventative measure against the sexual transmission of the virus. Or, researchers could combine the promising results from Ciclopirox with new studies on the drug Deferiprone, an oral drug also suspected of having the ability to subdue HIV, to pave the way toward an HIV-free world. With its potential ability to completely eliminate the virus in a patient’s system, this foot cream may be the best hope to eradicate AIDS for good.
Written By: Danyelle C. Overbo