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May 2006 Issue

Kenneth Sherman, MD, PhD, director of the division of digestive diseases
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UC Receives $3.4 Million Grant to Study Treatment for HIV and Hepatitis C

Published May 2006

UC has received a $3.4 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to evaluate liver injury following use of antiretroviral drugs in HIV-infected patients who also have hepatitis C.

Left untreated, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can progress to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The immune deficiency is caused by the loss of special white blood cells, called CD4 or "T" cells, which are essential to protect the body against infection.

"Liver disease is one of the major causes of illness in HIV-infected patients who also have hepatitis C," says Kenneth Sherman, MD, PhD, director of the UC digestive diseases division and principal investigator of the trial. "More than a million Americans have HIV and 25 percent of those also have hepatitis C."

In what is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy, three or more antiviral medications such as efavirenz, tenofovir and emtricitibine are taken in a combination as a treatment for HIV and AIDS.

Patients must take the different pills, as many as 10 a day, and stick to a strict schedule. The success of the drug cocktail lies in its ability to disrupt HIV at different stages of replication.

However, says Dr. Sherman, "In patients with both HIV and hepatitis C, as the HIV virus declines, we often see a simultaneous worsening of hepatitis C and detect abnormal results in blood tests that measure liver function.

"This study will attempt to determine whether liver damage is coming from the HIV medications or from the hepatitis virus itself."

About 30 patients will be enrolled at UC and New York University. The drugs will be provided by Gilead Sciences. None of the researchers have a financial interest in the company. n

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