A cream you might have in your bathroom medicine cabinet to treat a type of nail fungus could be the next big thing to prevent the spread of HIV.
Ciclopirox is a topical antifungal cream used for dermatological and other medical purposes, but researchers at Rutgers University found it also eliminated the HIV infection from cells in culture. Even after the treatment was stopped, the virus did not return.
Ciclopirox Topical Suspension by Fougera. This topical, antifungal cram was found by Rutgers researchers to also eradicate HIV in cell culture. (AP)
Publishing their findings in the journal PLOS ONE, the team from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School found the antifungal dose "inhibits the expression of HIV genes and also blocks the essential function of the mitochondria, thereby reactivating the cell’s suicide pathway," Rutgers announced in a statement.
Scientific American explained this latter effect in layman's terms:
In other words, infected cells that would normally commit suicide to spare healthy cells no longer pull any altruistic kamikaze missions. Ciclopirox tricks these cells back into their old ways with a double negative, disabling the disabling of the suicide pathway.
The thought is that Ciclopirox cream could be used to reduce sexual transmission of the virus, but this applicability still needs to be tested in clinical trials. Researchers are optimistic about the timing though, pointing out that Ciclopirox is already approved by the FDA as safe for human use, which could speed up the drug's development process.