About 20 million people throughout the world
are infected with HIV. A massive research effort has produced better
treatments, resulting in longer survival and improved quality of life for
those with access to the treatments. But there is still no vaccine or
cure. The only real defense against AIDS is prevention.
What makes HIV so difficult to control is that it targets and destroys
immune cells called t-helper cells, the body's first line of defense
against infection. Once these t-cells are decimated the body is vulnerable
to a host of infections of diseases. When t-cells are are weakened by HIV,
they lose their ability to produce and transport glutathione, a major
cellular antioxidant. Once this happens, they succumb to oxidative stress
causing further destruction. Not surprisingly, HIV-positive patients have
considerably lower glutathione, as well as other antioxidant, levels.
AIDS/HIV and Alpha Lipoic Acid
In the test tube, ALA prevents replication of HIV in cultured human cells.
There is also evidence that ALA bolsters the antioxidant defenses in
HIV-positive people. In one study, lipoic acid (150mg, 3 times daily) was
given orally to 12 HIV patients. At the end of 2 weeks, all of the
patients had an increase in in blood glutathione levels, and 9 patients
had an increase in the number of t-helper cells - a sign that their immune
system was stronger.
In vitro, alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to have synergistic effects
when combined with AZT, with the combination of the two showing stronger
inhibition of HIV replication than either had when used alone. In vitro
research done at Kumamoto University in Japan has shown that alpha-lipoic
acid significantly depresses both HIV tat gene activity and HIV
infectivity, and is active in both acute and chronically infected cells.
Other in vitro research done in the Department of Molecular and Cell
Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that alpha-lipoic
acid inhibits NF-kappa B activity.
German in vitro research has also shown that alpha-lipoic acid inhibits
the infectivity of virus particles and suppresses viral replication, and
follow-up in vivo studies by the same researchers showed that it does have
antiviral effects in HIV+'s, reducing viral titers just as had been
predicted by the in vitro research. Since NF-kappa B is, in essence, an
on-off switch for the activation of HIV, and tat inhibition is considered
a promising antiviral approach, and anything non-toxic that effectively
suppresses viral replication and reduces infectivity is immensely
desirable, alpha lipoic acid may be a very important part of a
comprehensive antiviral approach.