AIDS Dementia and Alzheimer’s Treatment May Both Be Aided by Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Damage caused by both AIDS dementia and Alzheimer's disease may be eased by anti-inflammatory drugs, researchers report in the current issue of the journal AIDS. According to the study, a subset of immune cells called monocyte/macrophages contain a molecule that secretes neurotoxins, causing inflammation in the brain. These immune cells are "much more prolific" in the blood of those with AIDS dementia and Alzheimer's because they are part of the brain's natural immune response to the two diseases. However, their levels remain high even in individuals who have been treated with antiretroviral drugs, suggesting that AIDS dementia has become a "more protracted disorder," lead author Lynn Pulliam, chief of microbiology at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be able to reduce the damage caused by the toxins, according to a study published earlier this year by Pulliam's group in Brain Research. In that study, an experimental anti-inflammatory drug manufactured by Centaur Pharmaceuticals prevented toxicity from building up, and a preliminary Phase II test of the drug has shown that it can improve patients' performance on psychomotor and cognitive function tests. "It would be very exciting if anti-inflammatory drugs turn out to be an effective additional treatment for AIDS dementia, or for Alzheimer's disease, because it would be a relatively simple approach that we already understand to some degree," Pulliam said (UCSF release, 12/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.