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Common Drug Treats Both HIV and Malaria


Millions of people in Africa could be helped by using an old drug in a new way. A drug that’s normally used to protect people with HIV/AIDS from bacterial infections can also be used to protect them from malaria.

One of the researchers taking part in studying the drug is Dr. Christopher Plowe, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. Plowe spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the dual treatment.

He says, “Cotrimoxizole or Bacterim are common names for trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, the drug we’re talking about here. And it’s an anti-biotic that’s been around for a long time. It’s very cheap and it’s used to treat bacterial infections primarily, respiratory infections, pneumonia, that sort of thing. And it’s just widely used across Africa. And it’s used in the US and Europe to prevent opportunistic infections in people living with HIV and AIDS. But it hadn’t been used in this regard in Africa until relatively recently when some studies showed some promising benefits in Cote d’Ivoire in 1999.”

Asked how the drug protects against malaria, Dr. Plowe says, “It turns out that in addition to being a good drug to treat bacterial infections, which is the main thing that it’s used for routinely and also pneumocystis pneumonia and taxoplasmosis, more exotic infections that happen in people with HIV, it is also a good anti-malarial drug, very related, closely related to the anti-malarial drug SP that people are familiar with in Africa.” Researchers do not recommend using the drug strictly for malaria, because it would have to be taken every day. But Dr. Plowe and others, including UNAIDS, say it should become part of standard treatment for those with HIV/AIDS who’s immune systems have been severely weakened. Research shows pregnant women would be among millions of people who could benefit from the dual therapy.

Click links above to download or listen to full interview.

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