The war on HIV infection wages as fiercely as ever, but if research into a class of drugs known as a fusion inhibitors turns out to be as promising as results presented this month to an international AIDS conference in Buenos Aires suggest, clinicians may soon have a powerful new addition to their armamentarium.

The drugs are badly needed fro two main reasons; HIV has developed resistance to existing therapies (protease inhibitors and reverse transcription inhibitors) and, secondly, drug companies and regulators have halted a number of early stage clinical trials because of adverse effects.

Whilst the detail is complex, the principal underlying fusion inhibitors is straightforward: they inhibit the fusion of HIV with receptors on the surface of the immune system cells — CD4+, a subset of T-lymphocytes — that HIV interacts with prior to infecting the cells. This inhibition reduces viral replication, hence progression form HIV infection to...

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