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HIV Drugs May Cause Forgetfulness, Behavioural Changes, New Research Shows

By Christie Abagon , Dec 18, 2016 05:54 PM EST
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A recent study conducted in the US shows that antiretroviral drugs may take a toll on the brain.  Researchers say that these medicines may cause forgetfulness, confusion and behavioural changes.

HIV Drugs Lead To Peptide Beta Amyloid, Often Linked With Alzheimers

University of Pennsylvania researchers were able to gather evidence to implicate that antiretroviral drugs may contribute to HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND).  They suggested that certain protease inhibitors, among the most effective HIV drugs, lead to the production of the peptide beta amyloid, which is often linked to Alzheimer's disease.

According to Economic Times, these drugs prompt an increase in levels of the enzyme that cleaves the amyloid precursor protein, APP, to produce beta amyloid, which is responsible for the damage to neurons.

Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, professor at University of Pennsylvania, said: "Protease inhibitors are very effective antiviral therapies, but they do have inherent toxicities.  Our findings may cause us to rethink how we're using these drugs and even consider developing an adjunctive therapy to reduce some of these negative effects."

Protease Inhibitors Are Widely Used In Africa

Out of the 34 million HIV-positive people worldwide, 69% live in sub-Saharan Africa.  HIV drugs with protease inhibitors are widely used in the region. 

It has already been reported in a previous study that protease inhibitors can have toxic effects on the central nervous system. They trigger the activation of stress-response pathways, including oxidative stress and a process called the unfolded-protein response, or UPR.

Meanwhile, another HIV treatment is also said to endanger the brain.  The strategy, which is known as "shock and kill" works by using a so-called latency-reversing agents to wake up dormant viruses in the body, making them vulnerable to the patient's immune system. The idea is that this, in combination with antiretroviral medicines, would wipe out the majority of infected cells.  According to a study, this treatment could cause brain inflammation. 

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