I treat many patients who have fungal infections in the nails. A wide range of treatment options are available, one of them being topical anti-fungal medicine. One of the most common topical anti-fungals is ciclopirox nail lacquer. Over the last few years, researchers have been testing ciclopirox and its effectiveness against the HIV virus. A recent study published in the current issue of PLOS (plosone.org) by a team of scientists at Rutgers Medical School in Newark shows that ciclopirox can actually kill cells that are infected with the virus.
Every cell has a built-in mechanism that is automatically activated if a cell it becomes infected with any virus as a way to shut down the spread it. The problem with HIV is that it has a way to turn this mechanism off. In the study, they treated HIV infected mice with ciclopirox and found that it turns that mechanism back on, thereby killing HIV infected cells. Even more promising, after stopping the treatment of ciclopirox there was no bounce back of the HIV, suggesting that the sleeping reservoir of virus was completely destroyed.
Before you go donating your bottle of ciclopirox to the local HIV clinic, finish reading the rest of this article. Some naysayers claim that since ciclopirox is a topical medicine, it can never be used systemically in a safe manner. Ultimately, it will take large trials with long term followup to prove that right or wrong. For now, we will continue to use ciclopirox how we know it: a topical antifungal.