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Nov 17, 2015 08:57 AM EST

Alcoholism drug can kill dormant HIV

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A new study has revealed that scientists seeking a cure for the AIDS virus have discovered that the same drug designed to combat alcoholism can kill dormant HIV hiding in the body, Reuters reports.

The drug, branded as Antabuse, is also sold as a generic called disulfiram.

For the study, the drug was given to 30 HIV positive patients in America and Australia who were already taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) AIDS drugs. The study found evidence that the "dormant HIV was activated" when the highest given dose was activated.

The study was published in The Lancet HIV journal on Monday.

Julian Elliott of the department of infectious diseases at The Alfred in Melbourne, Australia, who worked with Lewin, said that waking up the dormant virus was the first step to eliminating it.

"The next step is to get these cells to die," he said.

Sharon Lewin, a University of Melbourne professor who led the work, said that with disulfiram, the toxicity of the drugs trialled does not present a problem, as with other drugs.

"This trial clearly demonstrates that disulfiram is not toxic and is safe to use, and could quite possibly be the game changer we need," she said in a statement.

"The dosage of disulfiram we used provided more of a tickle than a kick to the virus, but this could be enough. Even though the drug was only given for three days, we saw a clear increase in (the) virus in (the) plasma, which was very encouraging."

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