HIV breakthrough by Irish scientists

  • Deborah Condon

New research by Irish scientists helps explain why some HIV patients treated with antiretroviral medications experience an increased incidence of heart attacks.

Last year, a major international study identified a higher than expected incidence of heart attacks among patients being treated with antiretroviral drugs for HIV. Building on this research, scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) developed a novel test tied to HIV to measure platelet activity in blood.

Platelets are essential for blood clotting when the skin is broken. However if they do not work properly within the bloodstream, they can cause clots within arteries which can lead to heart attacks.

Using this new test, a team from University College Dublin (UCD) and the Mater Hospital in Dublin carried out clinical trials to investigate the activity of platelets among HIV patients in Dublin. They found a significant increase in platelet reactivity among those taking certain antiretroviral medications.

“The international research published last year showed the link between antiretroviral treatments and increased risk of heart attacks but not the reason why. We have now demonstrated that the use of certain drugs for HIV has a direct effect on platelets within the blood. The results provide invaluable information to help in the search for safe long-term therapies for HIV infection,” explained lead researcher, Dr Paddy Mallon, a consultant in infectious diseases at the Mater.

He said that these findings would ‘significantly affect the management of patients with HIV and have important implications for the treatment of HIV worldwide’.

The research was presented at the Retrovirus Conference in Montreal, Canada this week.

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