A Last-Ditch Option For AIDS Patients

A medicine that blocks the AIDS virus from getting inside cells has shown promise as a last-ditch treatment for patients who fail to respond to standard AIDS drugs.

The medicine, code-named T-20, is still in early testing, but researchers said yesterday that it could offer a reprieve for those who have run out of options.

The drug is the furthest along of a new class of AIDS medicines called fusion inhibitors. They work by thwarting the virus's ability to fuse with blood cells and insert their genetic material into them.

However, the treatment has one large drawback compared with other AIDS drugs: Instead of being a pill, it must be injected twice daily. Nevertheless, patients in advanced stages of AIDS are willing to give themselves shots, and they seem to tolerate the drug well, said Michael Saag of the University of Alabama.

The results were reported Monday by Jay Lalezari of Quest Clinical Research in San Francisco at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

Doctors gave T-20 to 55 people who had high levels of the AIDS virus despite trying many different combinations of AIDS medicines. While these standard drugs have proved to be lifesavers for many with AIDS, they do not work for all patients. Doctors administered T-20 in combination with other drugs, even though the patients' HIV was resistant to the older medicines. After four months of treatment, virus levels fell significantly in 33 of the volunteers. In 20 of them, the virus fell to levels too low to be measured.

New Kind of Antibiotic For Resistant Bacteria

A drug described as the first entirely new kind of antibiotic in more than 35 years is expected to give doctors a fresh weapon against germs that are resistant to anything science now has.

The medicine, called Zyvox, appears to work as well as standard antibiotics against garden-variety germs and can also kill those that are resistant to everything else, including vancomycin, now the drug of last resort for stubborn infections.

Researchers presented the results of several large studies on the drug yesterday at a conference sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology. Its maker, Pharmacia & Upjohn, plans to seek approval for Zyvox from the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies around the world by the end of the year.

Zyvox will join another new antibiotic, Rhone-Poulenc Rorer's Synercid, which was approved by the FDA last week. Although available for the first time in the United States, Synercid is one of a class of antibiotics that has long been used in Europe as an additive to animal feeds.

By contrast, Zyvox is said by its developers to be entirely new, a synthetic compound designed from scratch to attack the bacterial life cycle at an entirely different point from other medicines. Because the drug will be different from anything that bacteria have encountered before, resistance should be rare, at least at the start.

Zyvox works only against gram-positive bacteria. Worldwide, more than half of all serious infections treated in hospitals are gram positive. These include staph, strep and enterococci bacteria that cause pneumonia and infections of the skin, bloodstream and urinary tract.