In this review we discuss the features of a new class of antiretroviral combinations, namely “Virostatics”. Virostatics are characterized by the combination of a drug directly inhibiting virus production (viro), and another drug indirectly inhibiting the virus by reducing cellular proliferation (static). In particular, we will focus on the combination of hydroxyurea and didanosine against HIV-1. Hydroxyurea and didanosine synergize to control viral replication and present with a favorable resistance profile, suppressing several resistant quasi-species. Because virostatics target essential cellular proteins, they exert an immune modulating activity and reduce viral targets (CD4 T cells), possibly with limited immunosuppressive effects. Importantly, a dose-finding clinical study has shown that decreasing the dose of hydroxyurea not only diminishes toxicity but also increases antiviral potency. Therefore, the combination of hydroxyurea and didanosine strikes a balance between viral suppression, drug-related toxicity and viral escape, and could have a role both in induction and maintenance therapy. In this review we would like to appraise what is known about hydroxyurea and didanosine and specifically address the major advantages, i.e. novel mechanism of action leading to a new class of drugs and resistance profile providing durability, as well as the major criticisms of this combination, i.e. toxicity and reasons for prescribing a perceived immune suppressant to immune compromised patients.
RIGHT - Research Institute for Genetic and Human Therapy - at Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, P.le Golgi, 2, 27100 - Pavia, Italy.
Publication date: January 1, 2007
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