Are Alpha Lipoic Acid Effective in Treating HIV?

Alpha lipoic acid (also known as thioctic acid, or ALA) may play an important therapeutic role for HIV-infected people. ALA has been shown to directly block NF-kappa B activation, to directly inhibit HIV replication in cell cultures, and to successfully treat peripheral neuropathy in individuals with diabetes mellitus.

Alpha Lipoic Acid and HIV

ALA, a naturally occurring disulfide-compound that acts as a cellular coenzyme, inhibits replication of HIV-1 in cultured lymphoid T-cells. Experimental results show that lipoic acid is an effective inhibitor of human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV-1) replication. In a study with HIV-infected participants, with ALA provided a variety of advantages related to antioxidant status, T-helper lymphocytes, and the T-helper/ suppressor cell ratio. In a small study conducted in Germany, scientists administered 450 mg ALA per day for 14 days and found important increases in plasma vitamin C and glutathione in a majority of the patients.

In vitro study done at “Kumamoto University” in Japan has shown that ALA significantly depresses both HIV tat gene activity and HIV infectivity, and is active in both acute and chronically infected cells. ALA blocks the activation of a substance called NF-kappa B, which is essential for the transcription of the HIV virus. Gene expression of HIV depends on a host cellular transcription factors including NF-kappaB. ALA interrupts HIV replication by completely blocking the activation of NF-kB in cell cultures at a concentration of 2 mM. Alpha lipoic acid has direct effect as an HIV-1 replication inhibitor at concentrations of 70 mg/L and has a synergistic antiviral property when combined with Zidovudine (a type of anti retroviral drug commonly known as AZT) at a concentration of 7mg/mL.

HIV patients are known to have low tissue levels of glutathione. In a study investigated the use of ALA supplementation on a group of HIV positive people. At the end of a 3 week period, participants were determined to have increased levels of plasma vitamin C and glutathione and a corresponding decrease in lipid peroxidation. Other a study was carried out in 33 HIV-infected individuals with a history of highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) unresponsiveness to test the hypothesis of whether supplement with alpha-lipoic acid would increase blood total glutathione and improve immune T-cell function. After six months of therapy, the mean whole blood total glutathione level in the ALA-treated group increased significantly compared with placebo. In response to the CD3 monoclonal antibody, lymphocyte proliferation decreased 66% in the placebo group over 6 months, compared with  a 3.7-fold enhancement in the anti-CD3 response in the ALA-therapy group.

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