Study Finds Another Use For Statins

Just when you thought drug companies couldn't find another use for statins, you guessed it, they found another one! Statin drugs may also help slow down the AIDS virus, Spanish researchers reported.

Statins alone given to HIV-infected patients suppressed the virus and helped replenish immune cells known as T-cells -- two key measures of health in patients with the virus.

The drugs seem to stop the virus from infecting cells by preventing them from opening the cell membrane, and keeping the virus from getting out of already infected cells. Surprisingly, results show statins might be suitable antiretroviral drugs for more accessible AIDS treatment.

Human immunodeficiency virus causes AIDS by infecting immune system cells. The virus injects its genetic material into the cells and forces them to become virus factories, pumping out more copies of the virus. Eventually the immune system is destroyed and patients die of a range of illnesses such as pneumonia. There is no cure and more than 25 million people have died of AIDS globally.

Drugs called highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART can suppress the virus and allow the immune system to function, but they are expensive and have side-effects. One is called lipodystrophy, a series of metabolic changes that can raise cholesterol levels and cause a redistribution of body fat.

Patients with lipodystrophy are often given statins. Immunologists wanted to see if the statins may themselves affect the course of infection.

Data suggests that statins can inhibit HIV-1 replication in chronically infected individuals, and support future clinical studies of statins as possible antiretroviral agents.

Yahoo News August 16, 2004

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