Antiviral drugs could cause insulin resistance, study finds

ST. LOUIS — Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, one of the greatest advances has been antiviral drugs that have helped extend the lives of patients with viral infections.

But the drugs also cause insulin resistance, which can put people taking them at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. According to a new study conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, compounds in the drugs known as protease inhibitors interfere with the body’s ability to control blood-sugar levels.

“Our lab has established that one of the effects of these drugs is blocking glucose transport, one of the most important steps in how insulin works,” WUSTL medical professor and lead study author Paul Hruz said. “Now that we’ve identified the main mechanism, we will look to develop new drugs that treat HIV but don’t cause diabetes.”