Discovery May Lead To New Class Of AIDS Drugs

Thursday, February 4, 2010
By Tom Fudge

San Diego researchers say they've discovered some new compounds that bind to HIV and that could lead to a new class of AIDS drugs.

The protease is an enzyme that's an essential part of the AIDS virus. And protease inhibitors have helped keep people with AIDS alive and quite healthy. But HIV has developed mutant forms that are resistant to current drugs. That's why researchers at Scripps Research Institute are excited by the discovery of two chemical compounds that bind to different parts of the protease.

Scrripps researcher Alex Perryman said the compounds have yet to show they inhibit the virus. But they may become anchor points for the development of new drugs that attack drug resistant HIV.

"We're starting to see AIDS patients not living as long and not having as high a quality of life," said Perryman, "because once they get one of these super-bugs it stays in them forever."

Perryman said more than ten percent of new AIDS cases in the U.S. involve drug-resistant strains of the virus