Australian Coral and Bee Venom May Prevent HIV
Two studies offer promising news for the prevention of the transmission of HIV. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research and Washington University School of Medicine have separately discovered two unlikely sources capable of destroying HIV or preventing its process.
A finding from the National Cancer Institute identifies a protein located in Australian Coral Reefs that is capable of blocking the virus from interfering with human T cells.
HIV leads to AIDS by weakening the immune system by way of the T cells. By preventing the virus from being able to attack the T-cell, researchers are hopeful that it can be used in products as a barrier against infection. Koreen Ramessar, Ph.D., a member of the research team, explained their findings:
“We found that cnidarins bind to the virus and prevent it from fusing with the T-cell membrane,” said Ramessar. “This is completely different from what we’ve seen with other proteins, so we think the cnidarin proteins have a unique mechanism of action.”
A year ago, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine found yet another unlikely source of HIV prevention in bees. They discovered that a toxin in bee venom was capable of destroying HIV cells while not harming any other cells in the body. This differs from other types of HIV antiviral processes because it does not work by preventing the functions of the virus- research shows it can destroy the virus.
The problem with many medicines designed for HIV prevention is that the virus will adapt and continue to replicate. Bee venom researchers believe that their toxin will offer a more permanent solution:
“We are attacking an inherent physical property of HIV, explained Joshua L Hood, MD and PhD, Theoretically; there isn’t any way for the virus to adapt to that.”
Hood is hoping that the toxin can be used to create a medicine to aid in conception amongst couples that include a HIV infected partner. It would prevent infection in the other partner while being safe for sperm.
The FDA has currently approved just over 25 antiretroviral drugs for HIV infection. They are not a cure for HIV and do not prevent transmission.