A new approach to treatment of HIV infection is promised by testtube evidence showing that entry of the virus into cells can bestopped.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins reported Saturday in The Lancet that thedrug 3-deaza-adenosine is highly effective in blocking viral entryand exit without being toxic to cells or to animals.

The drug does not block reverse transcriptase, the viral enzymetargeted by the nucleoside agents AZT and ddI, but instead interfereswith cell membrane processes.

Hopkins researcher Daniel Drachman told BioWorld that the drugperforms well in animal models of the neuromuscular diseasemyasthenia gravis, which depletes muscles of their receptors forthenerve messenger acetylcholine. This occurs because antibodiesmistakenly target the acetylcholine receptors. The receptors, cross-linked by the attacking antibodies, are internalized and digested bythe muscle cells.

3DZA presumably blocks entry because it stops the trans-methylation of phospholipids, which controls transport through cellmembranes.

For AIDS to develop, HIV must also use cell-surface receptors toenter, leading Drachman to try the drug against the AIDS virus aswell.

Johns Hopkins has a patent on the use of 3DZA, said Drachman. --Roberta Friedman, Ph.D.

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