The hepatitis C treatment pegylated interferon Alfa-2b is showing promise in early HIV infections, according to a study reported at the 10th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston.
Dr. Norbert Brockmeyer, of Ruhr University in Germany, said six months of treatment with the drug, which is branded as PegIntron, reduced HIV activity and increased the body's immune system activity.
The study involved 10 patients who had early stage HIV even though they exhibited no symptoms of it. Five male patients received weekly PegIntron injections. The other group of two women and three men received no treatment.
The viral load, a measure of HIV activity, in the patients receiving PegIntron dropped by an average of more than 800 percent while CD-4 cells, a measure of the body's immune system activity, increased by an average of 30 percent. Meanwhile, the viral loads in the patients who received no treatment increased.
The most surprising aspect of the study, according to the researchers, was that no serious side effects were reported in the PegIntron group, despite the fact that the drug can cause severe headaches, a flu-like illness, fatigue and depression for hepatitis C patients.
Other sources: 10th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections