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Being Alive
MEDICAL UPDATE: A Technical Point
Mark Katz, MD, reported by Warren Jones and Walt Senterfitt
February 5, 1992
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.