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AIDS. 1992 Aug;6(8):815-9.

Glutathione depletion in HIV-infected patients: role of cysteine deficiency and effect of oral N-acetylcysteine.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Medizinische Poliklinik, University of Bern, Switzerland.



To determine whether a single oral dose of N-acetylcysteine corrects the deficiency of cysteine and glutathione in plasma and mononuclear cells of HIV-infected patients.


Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic study.


Cysteine and glutathione were measured in plasma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients at different stages of HIV infection before and after a single oral dose of N-acetylcysteine.


At baseline, the plasma concentrations of glutathione and cysteine were significantly lower in HIV-infected patients than in healthy controls. The intracellular concentration of glutathione correlated with the absolute CD4 lymphocyte counts: the concentration of glutathione in mononuclear cells was significantly lower in patients with more advanced immunodeficiency. A single oral dose of N-acetylcysteine increased the concentration of cysteine in plasma and mononuclear cells of HIV-infected patients. Four hours after N-acetylcysteine administration, intracellular glutathione concentrations in the patients were moderately higher than at baseline and at 2 h.


Oral N-acetylcysteine transiently increases the concentrations of cysteine and glutathione in mononuclear cells of patients with HIV infection. A sustained increase in intracellular cysteine may be necessary to normalize intracellular glutathione. This may be accomplished by repeat administration of N-acetylcysteine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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