- The drug warfare being waged on the HIV
virus could end up making the epidemic worse, scientists have warned.
- Aids patients typically take a cocktail
of powerful drugs to keep on top of the infection. However, it is feared
that some patients will become sloppy about taking these pills, allowing
resistance to build up.
- This situation has already arisen with
common antibiotics. Years of inappropriate prescription by doctors and
failure of patients to take their drugs properly has led to the emergence
of so-called "superbugs" that resist virtually everything modern
medicine has in its armoury.
- There is now a possibility that HIV could
develop the same way, according to Sally Blower of the University of California
- She presented the findings of her research
to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS) in Anaheim.
- She said poor discipline was a problem
even in carefully controlled clinical trials. Some people were observed
not to take their medication in the way instructed and this gave the virus
a chance to mutate into drug-resistant forms.
- Mathematical models
- Blower and her colleagues used advanced
mathematical models and data from clinical drug trials, to show the course
of the Aids epidemic.
- When mathematicians take this rate and
apply it to what is known about how people take drugs in day-to-day life,
Blower said the picture is a grim one.
- "It could have beneficial effects,
but it is also likely that if treatment increases, the likelihood of drug
resistance increases," Blower said.
- "If we increase treatment rates
considerably and keep a tight, tight rein on how (the drugs) are handed
out, you would have a beneficial effect on 15% of new infections."
In other words, 15% of new HIV infections, on average over 10 years, would
- But if someone does not monitor patients
very closely, Blower's model predicts a 20% increase in new infections
over 10 years.
- "There is going to be drug resistance
and we've got to expect that," Blower added, pointing out that antibiotic-resistant
forms of tuberculosis have existed since the 1950s.