A widely used antimicrobial compound can protect monkeys from infection with an HIV-like virus. The findings reported online in Nature suggest that similar interventions could one day be used to block HIV transmission in humans.
Microbicides have been considered a great hope in preventing HIV transmission but results from trials have proved disappointing. Ashley Haase and colleagues take a new approach, focusing on the inflammatory response rather than the virus itself.
The team first looked at how simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) - a virus closely related to HIV - establishes infection in monkeys in the early stages after vaginal exposure. They find that the hosts' own inflammatory response to the virus, rather than helping, actually fuels the infection by recruiting the very CD4+ T cells that the virus targets. Blocking this inflammatory response by treating with the antimicrobial compound glycerol monolaurate (GML) suppressed infection even after repeated virus exposure. The researchers hope that their new approach will lead to the development of a safe and inexpensive microbicide to prevent HIV transmission in women.
Ashley Haase (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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