AIDS drug performs well in early test

A new drug that showed potential in laboratory tests against AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus has cleared another hurdle.

Researchers gave 63 HIV-infected patients, averaging 42 years of age, one or two daily injections of the drug called T-1249 for 2 weeks. One participant showed an allergic reaction and another developed a drop in the number of white blood cells called neutrophils. When researchers polled 45 of the patients regarding side effects, three-fourths reported having at least one. Most were minor, however, including rashes, mouth ulcers, and irritation at the site of injection.

Meanwhile, the drug significantly lowered the amount of detectable HIV in the patients getting the highest daily dose, 50 milligrams, says study coauthor Joseph J. Eron, a physician at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Because the patients generally tolerated this high dose well, Eron says, “one could hypothesize that we have not reached the maximum effect of this drug.” He and his colleagues hope to test larger doses of T-1249 in HIV-positive patients. It could clarify the drug’s true value against the disease, Eron says.

The main drugs used against AIDS work by thwarting the virus’ ability to synthesize and assemble DNA in human cells. In contrast, T-1249 prevents a virus from fusing with a cell’s outer membrane. It could prove valuable against HIV infections that have become resistant to other drug therapy, Eron says.

T-1249 works like T-649 and T-20, two chemicals that also block HIV from fusing with the cell membrane (SN: 11/07/98, p. 292; 10/09/99, p. 236). In the first pediatric test of T-20, which is ongoing, physician Joseph Church of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles reports that 12 HIV-infected children ages 3 to 12 received the drug for 1 week. All showed prompt declines in HIV in their blood and few side effects.

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