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U of M HIV breakthrough: Food additive might block transmission

6 March 2009 627 views No Comment
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Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota

Big news out of the University of Minnesota today. Researchers at the University say a food additive found in ice cream could help stop the spread of HIV when used in a sexual lubricant.

Scientists were able to prevent infection in female monkeys when they were treated with a gel containing glycerol monolaurate (GML) before they were exposed to the primate version of HIV, known as SIV. The details were reported today in the journal Nature.

While the study was small and only tried on animals, researchers say the results were promising. The compound was applied vaginally and does not cure an existing infection, but helped prevent the transmission prior to the exposure.

GML is a naturally occurring compound recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. It is often found in foods (such as ice cream) and many cosmetics as an anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory agent.

“After 25 years, an effective vaccine for HIV is still on the distant horizon, so not only vaccines, but all research into ways to prevent the continued spread of this lethal virus, remain critically important,” Haase said in a U of M report. “If GML as a topical microbicide can add to our prevention, it could contribute to saving millions of lives.”

The agent works by halting the body’s defense system. It sounds counter intuitive, but HIV spreads by using immune cells (T-cells) to expand infection.

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