Part of the show Bacteria, Fungi and Viruses...
New drug hits AIDS where it hurts - A new drug is now entering trials which aims to boost the arsenal of agents with which we can combat HIV. Arriving on the scene 25 years after the first cases of HIV were diagnosed, PA-457, as the new agent is currently known, targets a totally new component of the viral life cycle. It's being developed by Panacos Pharmaceuticals in Maryland, US, and works by preventing the virus from "maturing" and budding successfully from an infected cell. The latest research on the agent, published in the Journal of Virology, shows that it disrupts the formation of a viral structure referred to as the capsid, which is essentially a protein flask which contains the viral genetic material. PA-457 interferes with the production of the capsid, leading to the formation of a defective virus particle which is disabled and unable to infect other cells. A small trial of the agent conducted in August 2005 showed that when administered in isolation it reduced levels of virus tenfold in the blood of patients. But the new study will look at how PA-457 performs alongside traditional anti-retroviral drug therapy. 48 patients, whose existing anti-HIV drug regimens are failing, will also receive either the new agent or a placebo. Panacos Pharmaceutical's Graham Allaway cautions that the agent will not reach the market until at least 2009, but this represents a large step forward in the form of a totally new way to tackle HIV.