At a time when the rate of new infections of HIV is outpacing the rate of new individuals getting anti-retroviral drugs by 2.5 to 1; and with no vaccine in sight; and with AIDs being the top killer of women worldwide; and with the Vatican refusing to allow condoms as protection for women with HIV-infected husbands (urging abstinence instead), Mother Nature has just delivered an AIDS-related speed ball of potentially epic proportions to researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School.
In laboratory tests, BanLec, the lectin found in bananas, was as potent as two current anti-HIV drugs. Based on the findings published March 19 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, BanLec may become a less expensive new component of applied vaginal microbicides, researchers say.
David Marvovitz, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School, confirms that condoms, when used correctly, are most successful in preventing AIDS infection, when used correctly.
“That’s particularly true in developing countries where women have little control over sexual encounters so development of a long-lasting, self-applied microbicide is very attractive,” Markovitz says.
Given the reality that saying “no” to sexual contact isn’t a realistic choice, women could regularly apply a defensive application to prevent the AIDS virus from being activated in the body.
“The problem with some HIV drugs is that the virus can mutate and become resistant, but that’s much harder to do in the presence of lectins,” says lead author Michael D. Swanson, a doctoral student in the graduate program in immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School.
“Lectins can bind to the sugars found on different spots of the HIV-1 envelope, and presumably it will take multiple mutations for the virus to get around them,” he says.
Swanson is developing a process to molecularly alter BanLec to enhance its potential clinical utility. Clinical use is considered years away but researchers believe it could be used alone or with other anti-HIV drugs as a vaginal microbicide that prevents HIV infection.
Authors say even modest success could save millions of lives. Other investigators have estimated that 20 percent coverage with a microbicide that is only 60 percent effective against HIV may prevent up to 2.5 million HIV infections in three years. via Science Daily
The first question going through my mind reading this research is whether female genital cutting is in any way connected with the potential success of new applications of this “banana-based’ antirival, AIDS prevention treatment.
Will available genital ‘area’ to receive the application impact the antirival product’s efficacy? As groups like Tostan work with villagers to make the decision to stop genital cutting, this new research might be one more item of health information in their education packet used in the decision-making process.
This is an amazing piece of research news and we will dig in now to get more information. Anne