Protease inhibitor shows promise with HIV patients

Australian researchers report that therapy with the protease inhibitor ritonavir significantly increases CD8+ cell counts in patients with HIV. CD8+ cells are tested as an indicator of immune function. When comparing the CD8+ cell levels in HIV-positive patients who received ritonavir or other drugs such as transcriptase inhibitors, the researchers found that CD8+ levels were sustained to a much higher level than they were on the other drugs. Higher doses of the drug resulted in an even higher CD8+ effect. Although the clinical significance of the findings remains to be determined because ritonavir is a new drug, the investigators say that patients on the therapy will probably have better immune function and fewer clinical problems than patients not on the drug.