Research team led by Mark Brockman (far left) Ian Tietjen (center front) and Zabrina Brumme (far right)

Future of HIV treatment found in the sea?

March 14, 2018

By Phoebe Melvin

Worldwide 36.7 million people globally are living with HIV, and of these 20.9 million people are accessing antiretroviral therapy according to recent estimates. Antiretroviral drugs are used in an attempt to control HIV infection, and there are several different ‘classes’ or kinds of them. As with a number of other prescription drugs, antiretroviral resistance is a serious problem, so discovering new ways of treating infections is essential if medicine is to stay ahead of the game.

SFU researchers from the Faculty of Health Sciences are intent on discovering new classes of drugs to help treat HIV infections. In a new study published in Antiviral Research, the research team, led by Ian Tietjen, Zabrina Brumme, and Mark Brockman, tested the antiviral activities of over 250 compounds isolated from marine invertebrates and microorganisms. The study found six new compounds with anti-HIV activity, including one called ‘bengamide A’ which was able to inhibit HIV replication at low concentrations similar to those of licensed antiretroviral drugs. Through a series of tests the research team was able to show that bengamide A acts on HIV by targeting the ‘NF-κB cell signaling pathway’, which results in a suppression of viral replication. Discovery of bengamide A, and other similar compounds will help with the design and development of future therapeutics to help combat HIV, and other viral diseases.

The study is dedicated to the memory of co-author Mark Wainberg, who was a leading Canadian HIV researcher, activist and colleague.