Readily-available anti-inflammatory drug could help prevent spread of HIV: Study


Found in drugstores around the world, Aspirin is known for curing headaches and muscle pains, but a recent University of Manitoba study suggests the familiar drug may have a new purpose – preventing the spread of HIV.

On Thursday, the U of M, along with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the University of Waterloo and the University of Nairobi, announced the preliminary findings of a study started more than 30 years ago in the Kenyan capital, suggesting low-dose Aspirin, commonly known as baby-Aspirin (81mg), might be the newest approach to preventing HIV transmission.

“We think this is an important addition to the fight against HIV,” said Dr. Keith Fowke, lead author of the study and head of the department of medical microbiology and infectious diseases in the U of M’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The study, which began in 1984, focuses on a group of sex-workers from Nairobi who were unaffected by HIV. The HIV virus targets activated immune cells in the body. When inflammation occurs, immune cells are brought into the female genital tract, bringing with it the HIV virus.

What the U of M study found is the Aspirin, an anti-inflammatory drug, lowers the number of immune cells HIV can target. Found to be the most successful drug, the Aspirin reduced the number of HIV target cells in the female genital tract by 35% according to the U of M.

“This is one of the first studies where – in order to prevent HIV infection – we’re not targeting the virus, which is known to mutate and avoid other HIV drugs,” said Fowke. “We’re targeting the other side of the equation.”

If proven to work, Fowke said the Aspirin would have huge benefits due to the fact of its availability and affordability across the world as well as the lack of stigma associated with the drug.

“I would caution that this is not something for people to try at home, there are still a lot of other HIV prevention approaches,” said Fowkes. “We feel that this Aspirin approach is something that would be used along with other HIV prevention approaches such as wearing a condom.”

At this point, Fowke said the Aspirin theory hasn’t been proven, but the study will continue to monitor those with HIV using the Aspirin approach in hopes of drawing more stable conclusions.



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