HIV drugs home in on deadly parasites

CARDIFF U. (UK) — Drugs used to treat HIV have the potential to be a significant game changer in the treatment of parasitic disease, a monumental threat to global health.

“People in developing countries can be exposed to parasitic diseases such as malaria and leishmaniasis that can kill millions of people, so new and effective drugs are urgently needed to combat these infections, says Colin Berry of Cardiff University.

The identified protein, Ddi 1 from Leishmania parasites is sensitive to anti-HIV inhibitors, Berry says.

The research is published in the FASEB Journal.

“The use of existing anti-HIV agents has indicated that there is a potential target in some parasites and by identifying the protein responsible, we hope to exploit this weakness in the parasite to develop new and effective therapeutics to combat these devastating diseases.”

Researchers studied yeast that lacked the Ddi protein and examined the effects of adding the protein and HIV inhibitors. When using human Ddi 1, they also identified drugs that could block the activity of the Leishmania protein, but which were much weaker against the human equivalent, suggesting that possible side effects in a future drug could be reduced.

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