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BanLec found in bananas is as potent as existing anti-HIV drugs
Bananas may hold the key to powerful new treatments that protect against the Aids virus.
In laboratory tests, scientists found that a banana ingredient called BanLec was as potent as two existing anti-HIV drugs.
They believe cheap therapies based on BanLec have the potential to save millions of lives.
The ingredient is a lectin, a naturally occurring chemical in plants that fights infection.
Researchers in the U.S. found that the lectin found in bananas can inhibit HIV infection by blocking the virus's entry into the body. BanLec acts on the protein 'envelope' that encloses HIV's genetic material.
Lead author Michael Swanson, from the University of Michigan, said: '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.
'Lectins can bind to the sugars found on different spots of the HIV-1 envelope, and presumably it will take multiple mutations for the virus to get around them.'
The research is reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
BanLec was as effective in the laboratory as two anti-HIV drugs now in use, T-20 and maraviroc, the scientists found.
Mr Swanson is developing a process to alter BanLec
it suitable for human patients.
The researchers believe it could be used alone or in conjunction with other anti-HIV drugs.
Even modest success could potentially save millions of lives around the world, they claim.
Currently new HIV infections are outstripping the rate at which new patients receive anti-HIV drugs by 2.5 to one, say the authors.
Professor David Marvovits, from the University of Michigan Medical School, said: '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.'
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