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The Role of Antioxidants in HIV Therapy: A
Louise Short, MD; Theodore Hersh, MD
Thione International, Inc.
Presented by title, 2001 United States Conference
33.6 million people are infected with HIV world-wide. Due to lack
of access to protease inhibitors and other therapies in the developing
world, and new recommendations in the United States that standard
drug treatment be postponed until the immune system shows signs
of weakening, other less expensive treatments modalities that boost
the immune system of HIV infected individuals are critically needed.
The objective of this presentation is to explore the role of antioxidants,
which are relatively inexpensive and widely available, in HIV therapy.
Methods: Several studies
have shown that glutathione (GSH), the body's main intracellular
defense mechanism against oxidative stress, may play a significant
role in decreasing HIV viral replication, and in improving the survival
of HIV+ individuals. This presentation is a review of the literature
on antioxidants and HIV.
Results: In vitro studies
demonstrate that low intracellular GSH levels alter T cell function,
decrease cell survival, increase HIV replication, and increase activation
of enzymes associated with viral replication. A study in HIV+ humans
has shown that repletion of whole blood GSH levels is associated
with statistically significant increased survival. Data on GSH in
combination with conventional antiretrovirals in a mouse model showed
that high dose GSH and AZT together had synergistic effects. These
included reduction of splenomegaly and lymphadenopathy, a marked
reduction of proviral DNA in the organs, and a partial restoration
of the ability of T and B cells to regenerate. HIV + individuals
may also have low levels of other vital antioxidants including vitamins
A, C and E, and important micro-nutrients such as selenium, magnesium,
zinc and copper. The GSH cycle requires these antioxidant partners
to maintain cellular antioxidant defenses in combating toxic oxygen
and other free radicals.
Conclusions: Both the in
vitro literature as well as the limited data in humans provide strong
evidence for the beneficial effect of GSH as either a primary treatment
for HIV in those areas of the world where other therapies are not
available, or as an adjunct to other known therapies including AZT
and protease inhibitors. Recent scientific studies illustrate that
all antioxidants are not equal and combinations of synergistic antioxidants
may be far superior to singular antioxidants for a variety of medical
applications, including HIV therapy.
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