The antiretroviral (ARV) drug lopinavir (found in Kaletra) is able to kill cervical cells infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV)—cells that can go on to become cancerous—according to a study published online May 5 in the journal Antiviral Therapy.

HPV is one of the most widely spread viruses in the world. Transmitted through sexual contact, some strains cause genital warts, while others can cause cells to mutate and become cancerous, thereby leading to cervical cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer and cancers of the head and neck.

Though there is now a vaccine against several strains of HPV, it can only prevent HPV. It doesn’t protect someone already infected from developing cancer. Also, HIV-positive women have much higher rates of cervical cancer than women without HIV, and cervical cancer is a leading cause of death in both HIV-positive and HIV-negative women in resource poor countries.

In announcing the new findings, the study’s senior author—Ian Hampson, PhD, from the University of Manchester in England—noted that he and his colleagues were the first to document that lopinavir could be toxic to HPV, as reported in a fall 2006 issue of Antiviral Therapy.

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