FEB 02, 2016 3:49 PM PST

A New, Affordable HIV Drug?

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
University of Minnesota researchers found a new, more affordable way to treat HIV.  The RNA-based drug 5-azacytidine keeps the virus at bay and is cheaper to manufacture than related DNA-based drugs.

Researchers knew that 5-azacytidine kept HIV from spreading, but weren’t sure exactly how.  HIV is a retrovirus, meaning it converts its RNA genome into DNA.  The same thing happens with 5-azacytidine - HIV converts the RNA-based 5-azacytidine into a DNA form called 5-azadeoxycytidine.  Once HIV incorporates 5-azadeoxycytidine into its own genome, it induces numerous mutations, stopping the virus in its tracks.   
Developing countries need affordable HIV drugs.

According to study author Louis Mansky, “we now understand the mechanism for how 5-azacytidine blocks HIV's infectivity through hypermutation. This information may aid in developing cheaper HIV drugs”.  5-azacytidine is already approved by the FDA to treat myelodysplastic syndrome, so there’s a good chance it could eventually receive approval to treat HIV.  

“More than half of the world's HIV population is concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa where there is very limited access to HIV drugs and treatment”, says Mansky, “our study could lead to developing more cost-effective medication, which in turn could lead to new and more economical treatments for poorer, developing countries”.  What’s more, 5-azacytidine may even be effective against other viruses such as Zika, Ebola, and MERs.

Sources: Science Daily, Wikipedia
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
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