Building a safer drug
Researchers identify cause behind reaction to anti-HIV medication
By Laura Mize
UF researchers have helped identify the underlying cause of a genetically derived, potentially fatal reaction to an anti-HIV medication, and have begun creating a less dangerous form of the drug.
A genetic mutation causes the drug, called abacavir, to hang onto molecules attached to cell surfaces, prompting the immune system to go on the offensive. Disrupting that connection prevents the negative reaction.
“Now we understand how to alter the drug so that it won’t have that adverse effect,” said lead researcher David Ostrov, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine. “We hope the drug variants that we are trying to generate will help many people throughout the world by being a safer alternative.”
The findings were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The team’s work to understand the genetically based negative reactions to abacavir and develop a safer version of the drug could potentially eliminate the risk of those reactions and change the way scientists study reactions to drugs for conditions such as cancer or other infectious diseases.
An estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Abacavir, sold by itself as Ziagen or in combination with other compounds as Trizivir, Epzicom or other medications, is one of numerous antiviral drugs doctors prescribe for HIV patients.