HIV has been confounding scientists for decades now, and while plenty of treatments have been found, no actual cures for HIV have been discovered. But to be fair, this is a complex and destructive virus, so it’s unlikely that it could be cured by simple means, right?
. . . Oh, what’s that? According to Scientific American, scientists have found that a synthetic agent known as ciclopirox completely eradicated HIV in cell cultures? What the hell is ciclopirox then? . . . It’s foot cream? Sure, okay. I can see that.
The researchers said that one aspect of HIV that makes it particularly persistent, even in the face of strong antiviral treatments, is its ability to disable a cell’s altruistic suicide pathway — which is typically activated when a cell is damaged or infected. 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.
It’s obviously still going to take clinical trials on humans to study the safety and efficacy of Ciclopirox as a potential topical HIV treatment, but the fact that it’s already deemed safe for one type of human use could make the regulatory process faster than usual.
Before you get too excited, just remember there’s a slight catch to this: ciclopirox is a topical agent, so there’s still no guarantee that it can be used safely intravenously, and it remains to be seen whether or not this will work for an actual human body.
Even so, slight progress is better than no progress at all, and it does expand our understanding of HIV. Yay for the gradual pace of the scientific method!