HAART Drug Cocktail May Halt HIV-Related Brain Damage

A combination of antiretroviral drugs, known as Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), shows promise in halting brain damange caused by HIV, according to a Swedish research study published in the journal Neurology.

Participants were given the drug combination for a period of 12 months, and Researchers tested the subjects’ cerebrospinal fluid for the neurofilament light protein before, during and after treatment. The protein is a biomark for brain injury.

The researchers found that, of the 53 people in the study, approximately 40 percent had high levels of the protein at the commencement of treatment. After one year of treatment, only four of the participants still showed high levels of neurofilament light, suggesting that the drug combination not only treats the infections caused by HIV, but also appears to halt brain damage caused by the virus.

According to Åsa Mellgren, MD, PhD, an author of the study, HAART treatment "appears to halt the neurodegenerative process caused by HIV. This study confirms that neurofilament light protein serves as a useful marker in monitoring brain injury in people with HIV and in evaluating the effectiveness of HAART." He added that further study of the protein is needed that includes more extensive neurological measures, including cognitive testing.

Dr. Mellgren is from the Clinic of Infectious Diseases SÄS in Borås, Sweden, and the Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University in Göteborg, Sweden. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Göteborg University, and Research Foundation of Swedish Physicians against AIDS.

Source: Neurology (October 9, 2007)

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