Current treatments for HIV infections have come a long way over the past decade. Still research continues to try and find a cure for this tenacious viral invasion. While antiretroviral therapies may control the infection, treatment does not eliminate it completely from the body. There are some cells that have been infected with HIV that remain dormant and undetected by the immune system. Should a patient cease treatment, these cells could reactivate. However, recent research teams have noted a new class of drug that may be the key to purging these dormant cells. That could mean an HIV cure.

Cells that contain the HIV gene are difficult to find because they are wrapped up in the DNA. Certain drugs that are used to unravel this gene to treat other conditions still have a tough time finding the virus. Also, it is not easy to wake the virus as many of these types of drugs have not been successful in doing so. Here is where the new drug comes in. Smac mimetics, as it is called, works by acting as an alarm. This alarm acts quickly and is effective at awakening latent HIV-infected cells. It can do this without the risk of also activating the immune system which, if drastic enough, could prove fatal. But, the awakening of these cells can lead to detection by the immune system and eradication. All of this is accomplished because the drug uses the so-called back-door of the cell when it enters. Thus, a complete purge of the virus from the host occurs. If used together with the gene unraveling drugs, it is believed that Smac mimetics will prove successful.

With so much new information and so many trials underway, sometimes promising results do not make it into therapy for quite a while. This brings us to the other benefit of Smac mimetics – it is already being used for clinical trials in cancer treatments. The trials already conducted have gone very well. So while HIV-1 specific testing and formulating needs to be done, it is possible to see the drug being used for HIV in a much more reasonable timeframe than if it was a new development for an HIV cure.