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Being Alive

MEDICAL UPDATE: A Technical Point


Being Alive 1992 Feb 5: 2

A new very techincal study in the Journal of AIDS warrants passing mention. As many of you know, HIV, after infecting a T-cell or other target, uses the enzyme reverse transcriptase to convert its own (RNA) genetic material into DNA for incorporation into the DNA of the "host" cell. (AZT, DDI, DDC and other nucleosides work by interfering with the action of reverse transcriptase.) Not all the DNA created by this transcription process ends up incorporated into the host cell's nucleus. Some of it ends up floating around as "free" HIV DNA. This study measured the amounts of free or unintegrated DNA in a number of patients before and after they were on antiretroviral therapy with AZT or DDC. The authors found that in every patient, the free DNA diminished to virtually zero after the person had been on AZT or DDC. In some cases after extended periods of therapy, the free DNA levels began to rise again. We don't know the significance of this free DNA, but it may be a marker (indirect indicator) of the effectiveness of the antiviral drugs and the development of significant resistance.


Information in this article was accurate in February 5, 1992. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.