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Cream with green tea extract hinders HIV transmission

April 29, 2009

A chemical found in green tea helps inhibit sexual transmission of the virus which causes AIDS, said a study Tuesday that recommends using the compound in vaginal creams to supplement antiretrovirals.

Medical experts at Germany's University of Heidelberg said the compound could be a low-cost arrow in the quiver of medical weapons to fight the spread of HIV in research-poor countries.

The researchers said they determined that the green tea polyphenol, or vegetable tannin, called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is capable of neutralizing a protein in sperm which serves as a vector for viral transmission during sex.

EGCG degrades what is known as a semen-derived enhancer of virus infection, or SEVI, described in the study as "an important infectivity factor of HIV."

Writing in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers said they "recently identified a peptide fraction in human semen that consistently enhanced HIV-1 infection."

SEVIs capture viral elements and attach them to the surface of target cells, enhancing cell fusion and decreasing a cell's ability to repel viral threats.

EGCG "targets SEVI for degradation" and "abrogates semen-mediated enhancement of HIV-1 infection in the absence of cellular toxicity," said the researchers, some of whom work at the university's Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology.

Because of its effects on semen-based HIV transmission threats, the study's authors said "EGCG appears to be a promising supplement to antiretroviral microbicides to reduce sexual transmission of HIV-1."

With the vast majority of the world's 33 million people with HIV infected through heterosexual sex, and as 96 percent of new infections occur in poor and developing nations, researchers said the use of green tea EGCG in topical creams would "provide a simple and affordable prevention method" to guard against HIV transmission.

Green tea, which originated in China and is widely consumed in Asia, the Middle East and growing numbers of western countries, is already popular for its antioxidant qualities.


Tags: Green tea, vegetable tannin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, EGCG, antioxidant

Germicide Might Guard Against HIV Infection

April 16, 2009

Scientists report that a common germ-killing compound prevented transmission of an HIV-like virus in five female monkeys, an encouraging sign that it might also work in humans.

The research is still in its early stages. However, the researchers said the compound could eventually make its way into sexual lubricants that women could use to avoid infection with the virus that causes AIDS.

"It's a promising lead that we're on to something that's a different way to approach the problem of prevention," said study co-author Dr. Ashley T. Haase, head of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Minnesota.

Currently, the most practical ways to prevent HIV transmission are abstinence, monogamy with an uninfected partner and protected sex. Researchers have spent years trying to develop another option: a gel that women, and perhaps men, could use to kill the AIDS virus before it enters the body.

But scientists have had trouble killing the virus without harming the person in the process. Some gels, for example, actually made transmission easier by causing tears in the lining of the vagina.

In the new research, researchers examined a compound called glycerol monolaurate, which is recognized as safe. It's found in products ranging from ice cream to cosmetics and kills a variety of germs in addition to helping substances mix properly, said study co-author Patrick M. Schlievert, a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota.

In the new study, researchers tested the compound on five female rhesus macaques that were vaginally exposed to the monkey equivalent of the AIDS virus. The findings were published in the March 4 online issue of Nature.

The monkeys avoided infection. Four out of five other monkeys who weren't treated with the compound developed infections after being exposed.

The next step is to move on to studies that will confirm the compound works and to try to find doses that "are more applicable to the real world," Haase said.

There are other questions to be answered, including whether the treatment would protect men from infection when they have sex with men or women.

The good news: The compound would cost less than a cent for each dose for a woman, Schlievert said.

Dr. Jeffrey C. Laurence, a professor at Cornell University who studies AIDS, said the new study is innovative, because the treatment targets the body's immune responses rather than directly killing HIV itself.

The challenge is to develop a product that prevents AIDS and is also "unobtrusive, easy to use, and has long-lasting effects, so that it need not be applied daily or before each act of intercourse," said Laurence, who's also a senior scientist for programs at The Foundation for AIDS Research.


Tags: Green tea, vegetable tannin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, EGCG, antioxidant


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