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Pegylated Interferon and HIV Suppression

, by San Francisco AIDS Foundation

Interrupting HIV treatment has been shown, most notably in the landmark SMART study, to be generally unsafe, with increased risk not only for reduced immune system health but also for heart, kidney, and liver diseases. But a small study published in the October 26 advance online edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases reports that the hepatitis C drug pegylated interferon alfa-2 (brand name Pegasys) may increase the body’s ability to control HIV without antiretroviral treatment and make such interruptions less dangerous.

For the first five weeks of the study, participants took a weekly dose of either 90 mcg or 180 mcg of pegylated interferon alfa-2a in addition to their regular HIV medications. Participants then interrupted antiretroviral therapy but continued taking pegylated interferon for up to 12 weeks, with the option to continue through 24 weeks. At the 12-week point, 9 out of 20 study volunteers (45%) who were taking pegylated interferon alone maintained an HIV viral load below 400 copies/mL—“a significantly greater proportion than expected,” the researchers note.

The study abstract and full text of the accepted manuscript are available here. For a more reader-friendly discussion of the research findings, see Liz Highleyman’s summary of the study, excerpted below and available in full at HIVandHepatitis.com.

Pegylated Interferon May Maintain HIV Suppression and Reduce Viral DNA Integration

By Liz Highleyman

Published November 9, 2012

Adding pegylated interferon alfa to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV may help some people control viral replication when they interrupt treatment, according to a small study reported at this year’s Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2012) and published in the October 26, 2012, advance online edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Most people with HIV are unable to control the virus long-term without treatment. Studies such as SMART have shown that ART interruption is harmful overall; however, researchers must attempt brief treatment interruptions to determine whether various cure approaches are able to maintain viral suppression or achieve viral eradication.

Livio Azzoni and Luis Montaner from the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and colleagues looked at 23 HIV positive individuals who were on ART with suppressed viral load < 50 copies/mL and CD4 T-cells counts > 450 cells/mm3….

Click here to read the full summary on HIVandHepatitis.com.


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