Professor Julian Gold in Sidney treats people with HIV. He noticed that only one of his patents over the last few decades had MS, and that the disease progression in that patient had stopped – you would expect 1 in 600 people to have MS so he should have seen a lot more. He then looked at the NHS database and found that the incidence of PwMS in people with HIV was very low.
He suggests that perhaps the HIV immunosuppression antiretroviral medications have an effect on people’s MS.
There has already been a tiny trial in Denmark which links HIV+ with a reduction in MS but it was too small to be significant. Now Prof Gold is publishing the results of a much bigger cohort trial in Australia and it looks like people with HIV and all the associated medication have a 70% reduction in the chance of MS symptoms progressing. His next step is a clinical trial looking at a drug used for HIV called Raltegravir. Results should be out early next year.
It’s not as crazy as it may seem: There a link between MS and a virus infection – research that shows getting glandular fever (also known as mononucleosis) is a risk factor for being diagnosed with MS later. Glandular fever is caused by the Epstein–Barr virus (also called human herpesvirus 4) one of the most common viruses in humans. So there is something about viruses an MS. So maybe the right antiviral will affect MS progression. Maybe that antiviral is Raltegravir.
It’s all good headline grabbing stuff – miracle cures, HIV, accidental discoveries by brainy scientists… Might be right, might be wrong: So tread carefully!
Does antiretroviral therapy for HIV reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis? J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry jnnp-2014-308297 Published Online First: 4 August 2014 doi:10.1136/jnnp-2014-308297
HIV and lower risk of multiple sclerosis: beginning to unravel a mystery using a record-linked database study
BBC Inside Health