U of M scientists announce breakthrough against AIDS virus

Human Immunodefieciency Virus (HIV): Photo Credit: C. Goldsmith
Human Immunodefieciency Virus (HIV): Photo Credit: C. GoldsmithCourtesy Public Domain
Researchers at the University of Minnesota announced the discovery of a simple guard against the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Microbiologists Dr. Ashley Haase and Patrick Schlievert announced their findings in the journal Nature. Haase has been studying the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) for more than 25 years. Schlievert is an expert in infectious diseases.

The prevention is relatively simple: an over-the-counter lubricating jelly is mixed with a common and inexpensive food additive known as glycerol monlaurate (GML) and applied to the sex organs of female laboratory monkeys. The test subjects were then exposed to the simian version of the virus (SIV). In all five cases the treated monkeys showed no signs of infection while untreated monkeys all became infected. (One treated subject later became infected although researchers aren’t sure exactly why. It may be she became infected after the study ended).

The new treatment shows promise in fighting the sexual transmission of the AIDS virus in women and could lead to prevention of the disease spreading in both sexes. Every day HIV infects more than 5000 people somewhere in the world, and in Africa women make up more than half the new cases.

HIV spreads through a person’s bloodstream by hijacking the host-body’s own immune cells activated to fight the infection. HIV transmission can take place through unprotected sexual contact with an infected person, or by the sharing of needles with someone who is HIV positive. A pregnant woman with HIV can sometimes infect her baby in utero, or during birth, or via breast-feeding. Infection via blood transfusion is less common now that most blood banks screen for the AIDS virus.

Schlievert warns that this is only a treatment to guard against further transmission of the virus responsible for AIDS (as well as other sexually transmitted diseases), not a cure for those already stricken with the disease.

Isn’t it remarkable that a compound of a common water-based personal lubricant and inexpensive (1 cent per dose) food additive found in ice cream and chewing gum could lead to a simple way of guarding against infection from this devastating disease?

Story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune
HIV transmission info

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

shanai's picture
shanai says:

This is great and promising news, especially considering that the incidence of women becoming infected with HIV is on the rise in the US as well as other countries.

Two quick questions that popped into my mind:

Is this likely to lead to a preventative solution for men too? Because not all men contract HIV from women.

Also - how would you create a drug trial for this? Would it mean that people would have to be exposed to the virus knowingly?

Just curious.

posted on Thu, 03/05/2009 - 5:41pm
mdr's picture
mdr says:

I imagine since it involves a germicide a male application could at some point be figured out.

I had the same question about creating a drug trial. Even though the same method has been used for other non-lethal sexually transmitted diseases I don't know whether continuing success in that arena would convince me (or anyone) to act as guinea pig in a test against something as potentially terminal as AIDS. So, in other words, I don' know how they'll go about doing that unless the attitude toward using prison volunteers changes.

posted on Thu, 03/05/2009 - 7:45pm
TC's picture
TC says:

It would be ethically wrong to use prisoners let alone any person in a test trial. It would be best to continue use on monkeys. If it continues to work why not try it will people who are sexually active in areas that are highly at risk.

posted on Sat, 03/07/2009 - 11:10am
mdr's picture
mdr says:

If it's ethically wrong to use "any person in a test trial", why would it be okay to try it on "people who are sexually active in areas that are highly at risk"?

posted on Sat, 03/07/2009 - 12:15pm
TC's picture
TC says:

You cannot give it to people and then have them purposely have sex with a person who is infected to see if it protects them. It is ethically wrong, but would it be possible to give it out to a population that is higher at risk and see if the infection rate declines within that population. I could be wrong about this possible method of testing, but to do a controlled experiment like the one tested on the monkeys would be ethically wrong using humans.

posted on Sat, 03/07/2009 - 1:29pm
Eliza Rave's picture
Eliza Rave says:

Thats fantastic that they have made a break-through when it comes to AIDs because those people who get it either sexually or otherwise need help they dont deserve to die that way

posted on Sat, 03/07/2009 - 4:08pm

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