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Chemical in banana may inhibit HIV infection
Washington, Mar 17 (IANS)
Published on 18 Mar. 2010 12:12 AM IST
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A potent new inhibitor of HIV, derived from bananas, may open the door to new treatments to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, according to a recently published study. Scientists have an emerging interest in lectins, naturally occurring chemicals in plants, because of their ability to halt the chain of reaction that leads to a variety of infections. In laboratory tests, BanLec, the lectin found in bananas, was as potent as two current anti-HIV drugs. New ways of stopping the spread of HIV are vitally needed. The rate of new HIV infections is outpacing the rate of new patients getting anti-retroviral drugs by 2.5 to 1, and at present it appears an effective vaccine is years away. “HIV is still rampant in the US and the explosion in poorer countries continues to be a bad problem because of tremendous human suffering and the cost of treating it,” says study author David Marvovitz, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan (U-M). The new research describes the complex actions of lectins and their ability to outsmart HIV. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins. They can identify foreign invaders like a virus. The research team discovered that BanLec can inhibit HIV infection by binding to the sugar-rich HIV-1 envelope protein, gp120, and block its entry to 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.

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