Thursday, March 5, 2009

Microbicide Containing Natural Compound Provides Protection in Monkeys Against Simian Version of HIV, Study Says

via the Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report

An experimental microbicide containing a naturally occurring compound provides protection in monkeys against the simian version of HIV by diminishing immune responses to the virus, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, the Los Angeles Times reports. HIV typically spreads in the body by entering CD4+ T cells, which the immune system sends out to attack the virus after exposure. The compound -- called glycerol monolaurate, or GML -- works by inhibiting immune signals that dispatch the T cells to attack the infection. It is those T cells that HIV infects and uses to proliferate throughout the body (Engel, Los Angeles Times, 3/5). GML occurs naturally in the human body and already is approved for use as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory ingredient in cosmetics and toiletries, as well as an emulsifier in foods. In addition, each dose of GML used in the study costs less than one cent. According to the researchers, the study's findings have promising implications for the development of effective microbicides to prevent HIV (AFP/Google.com, 3/4).

Read the rest.

1 comment:

Roger said...

Most press coverage forget to report the comments made by other scientists working in the field that I copy here:

Despite those results, some researchers are reluctant to back the idea of taking glycerol monolaurate into human trials. The compound is a surfactant, and trials with another surfactant — the spermicide nonoxynol-9 — not only failed to protect women from HIV, but increased their risk of infection. "At the moment, the jury would be quite sceptical of a surfactant," says Ian McGowan, an immunologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania who has studied microbicides as a principal investigator in the Microbicide Trials Network. "This product would have an uphill path to get to the clinic."

Haase has heard such criticism before, most notably in reviews of his applications for research funding. He counters that repeated use of nonoxynol-9 was found to cause inflammation and lesions in the vagina and cervix, yet his safety studies have thus far shown no evidence that glycerol monolaurate causes such damage.

Meanwhile, Robin Shattock, an HIV researcher at St George's, University of London, says that the latest results do not rule out the possibility that glycerol monolaurate is simply destroying the virus directly, as most surfactants are thought to do. An approach that targets the immune system would be interesting, says Shattock, "but the evidence as presented is at best circumstantial".

Nevertheless, the results should stimulate more research aimed at tackling the early events after infection says Sharon Hillier, another principal investigator in the Microbicide Trials Network. "They're provocative," she says. As for glycerol monolaurate, Hillier says the compound is "going to require more attention before we know whether or not it has promise as a microbicide".

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