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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Battling HIV 

Two new studies show much potential in preventing/fighting HIV:

In the first, researchers found that a Lactobacillus bacteria, naturally found in our mouths, strongly binds sugars present on the HIV viral coat. This is a property of the virus that doesn't change from strain to strain the way protein and RNA markers do, and could lead to a more sustainable therapy. Seeding these bacteria into the mouths and stomachs of newborns may prevent transmission of the virus from an infected mother's milk. Even if that doesn't work directly, it could lead to some other new ideas for treatment and prevention.

Secondly, researchers at Stanford University are exploring a gene treatment, which would gengineer a patient's immune stem cells to produce HIV-specific ribozymes, hopefully destroying the virus before it can infect, or at least slowing the effects of an infection. This kind of therapy is enormously interesting, and if proves safe (regardless of whether or not this specific one works), then it has potential applications all over the place, for treatments of a range of diseases, including cancer.

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