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AIDS Treatment Data Network
(ATDN) Anti-Oxidants

August 1, 1994
Treatment Review No. 13; August 1994

Oxidants, sometimes called free radicals, are substances that occur naturally in your body, especially when you have an infection. Usually they are cleaned up efficiently and gotten rid of by substances called antioxidants. With infection, there may not be enough antioxidants in your system to do the work. Too many oxidants can harm healthy cells and cause inflammation.

Glutathione is a substance found in the blood, it has a number of important functions. Perhaps most important is its action as an antioxidant. Low levels of glutathione may be linked to the progression of HIV disease. Low levels of glutathione allow higher levels of a chemical messenger called NF-kB. NF-kB causes HIV replication as well as cell division. HIV replication and cell division are the ways HIV spreads.

A study of procysteine (a type of anti-oxidant) given intravenously to HIV+ participants without symptoms showed promising results. Procysteine is a drug that helps boost levels of glutathione. Significant increases in glutathione in whole blood was found after six weeks of treatment. Side effects such as rash and lightheadedness went away on their own and occurred after the first infusion, but did not recur with following doses.