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Scientists Use Live Bacteria to Fight HIV
Date:7/18/2011

rate of HIV infection when this product is tested in women. The lactobacilli themselves are also beneficial to vaginal health."

The scientists believe their approach could provide an affordable and durable method for reducing the continuing worldwide epidemic of HIV, which currently infects more than two million people every year. A major advantage of the novel approach of a live bioshield such as MucoCept is that it would provide sustained protection; women would not need to apply it frequently or immediately before sexual intercourse.

"This approach has potential as a novel 'natural' approach to prevent HIV," said Dr. Salim S. Abdool Karim of Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research In South Africa (CAPRISA) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who co-led a study establishing proof-of-concept for microbicides using tenofovir gel. "Data in women are eagerly awaited." Dr. Karim was not involved in the current study.

"It's exciting to be working on a prevention for HIV that people could actually afford," said Dr. Dean H. Hamer, chief of the Gene Structure and Regulation Section at the NCI and senior author of the study. "While there is much interest in the recent results with PrEP [pre-exposure prophylaxis], it's important to realize that the cost of the required antiretroviral drugs is prohibitive in the real world."

The engineered lactobacilli in MucoCept constitute an ideal microbicide because the organisms naturally colonize the vagina—unlike the strains found in dairy products or food supplements—and they continuously produce the HIV inhibitor. Upon administration of MucoCept as a vaginal suppository, these bacteria can take up residence and potentially protect the user for weeks at a time.

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