Anti-Viral Drug Holds Out Promise in Treating AIDS

Associated Press

An anti-viral drug has been shown for the first time to reduce fevers in AIDS patients, boost their immune systems and eliminate some infections, researchers said today.

In a report to be published Friday in the Lancet, a British medical journal, the researchers said that 15 of 19 patients suffering from acquired immune deficiency syndrome who were given the drug had increased numbers of white blood cells called helper-inducer T-cells, which are vital components of the body's defenses against disease.

One of the leaders of the new study, Dr. Samuel Broder of the National Cancer Institute, emphasized that the improvements were observed for only a short time, and it is not known whether the patients will experience long-term benefits.

Over the short term, fevers decreased or ceased in some patients, fungal infections under the nails cleared up without anti-fungal drugs, and some patients experienced improved appetite and weight gain, Broder said.

Dr. Martin Hirsch, an AIDS researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said: "I think it's promising. There are not, to my knowledge, any published data showing similar improvements. I think now is the time for a carefully controlled large-scale study."

The drug, called azidothymidine, or AZT, was formerly known as compound S. It has been mentioned by the cancer institute as among the most promising of the half-dozen or so AIDS drugs now in the initial stages of testing.

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