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Researchers have developed a new type of drug, which they say can prevent the HIV virus from replicating. The drug works by targeting one of the virus's enzymes — called 'integrase' — that helps the virus enter human white blood cells and replicate within them.

The researchers, from the Merck and Co. pharmaceutical company, gave the drug to six monkeys that had been infected with a hybrid of the monkey and human forms of HIV. In four of the monkeys, the virus fell to "undetectable levels." In all six monkeys, the numbers of 'CD4' white blood cells decreased only slightly. These cells are central to the immune system and their numbers normally decrease following HIV infection.

The researchers say the drug could be especially useful for HIV/AIDS patients where the virus is becoming resistant to existing drugs and patients who have yet to receive other therapies.

Link to full BBC Online news story

Link to full paper by Hazuda et al on Science Express

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