Although it has been known that many people who have the HIV virus also develop a resistance to insulin that can lead to diabetes and heart disease, it was previously not been understood why this happened. Now researchers at the Washington School of Medicine in the US have revealed that the problem may due to the strong drugs taken by HIV patients to prevent the development of AIDS and help extend their lifespan.
The study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, found that first-generation HIV protease inhibitor drugs, such as the drug ritonavir, interfere with a protein that moves glucose from the blood into the cells where it is needed. With levels of blood sugar not being controlled properly, this can lead to insulin resistance, and contribute to diabetes.
Paul Hruz, who led the research, said “Our lab has established that one of the effects of these drugs is blocking glucose transport, one of most important steps in how insulin works. Now that we’ve identified the main mechanism, we will look to develop new drugs that treat HIV but don’t cause diabetes.”
The study showed that the prevalence of overt diabetes in HIV patients is around 5 per cent, while 25 per cent have metabolic syndromen, a set of risk factors that pushes up the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke .
It is hoped the breakthrough will assist the development of more safe antiviral drugs, and the researchers are examining the possibility of a new HIV drug that the virus does not develop resistance to.

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