Minocycline, also sold under the brand name Minocin, has been used for many years to treat acne has now been discovered to target immune system cells in which HIV lies dormant before causing infection.
Minocycline offers a distinct advantage over the current drug cocktails because it targets cellular pathways instead of viral proteins. This means that the virus is less likely to develop drug resistance.
The drug cocktails currently used to treat HIV target the virus; minocycline targets and adjusts the T cells of the immune system. Minocycline reduces the T cell’s ability to reproduce and activate. The two steps necessary for HIV to reproduce and progress into full-blown AIDS.
From the press release on the Johns Hopkins website:
“This drug strikes a good balance and is ideal for HIV because it targets very specific aspects of immune activation.” says Gregory Szeto, a graduate student in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine working in the Retrovirus Laboratory at Hopkins.
“Minocycline reduces the capability of the virus to emerge from resting infected T cells,” Szeto explains. “It prevents the virus from escaping in the one in a million cells in which it lays dormant in a person on HAART [Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy], and since it prevents virus activation it should maintain the level of viral latency or even lower it. That’s the goal: Sustaining a latent non-infectious state.”
The team used molecular markers to discover that minocycline very selectively interrupts certain specific signaling pathways critical for T cell activation. However, the antibiotic doesn’t completely obliterate T cells or diminish their ability to respond to other infections or diseases, which is crucial for individuals with HIV.
For more information and to read the full press release, visit the Johns Hopkins website.