Anti-Fungal Drug Causes HIV-Infected Cell to Commit Suicide

Ciclopirox, a topical antifungal, has been found to cause HIV-infected cells to commit suicide by “jamming up the cells’ mitochondria,” according to a study by researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. 

Specifically, ciclopirox completely eradicates infectious HIV from cell cultures, with no viral rebound after treatment is stopped.

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Ciclopirox is an active ingredient found in products such as Loprox Gel (ciclopirox 0.77%; Medicis) and Penlac (ciclopirox 8%; Valeant), used to treat fungal infections.

Previous research showed that ciclopirox inhibits the expression of HIV genes in culture. 

The current study now shows that ciclopirox works against HIV in two ways: by inhibiting the expression of HIV genes and also blocking the function of the mitochondria. The latter mechanism reactivates the cell’s suicide pathway. 

Researchers noted that healthy, uninfected cells were spared and that the virus did not rebound when ciclopirox was removed.

The topical application of ciclopirox in patients with HIV to reduce sexual transmission of the virus, is pending verification in future clinical trials.

This study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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