Natural Agents to Prevent HIV?

The studies are in very early stages. But a few plants — and even the banana! — have been discovered to contain compounds that seem to inhibit HIV quite dramatically. Will they be developed? How long will it take? Will they necessarily become outrageously costly medications, or can they somehow be shown to have benefit in a more natural or at least less costly state? Questions that should be urgently addressed! If agents like Ban-Lec, possibly combined with other sugar-binding proteins known as lectins, can be used in a gel without causing inflammation, this may be a much better bet than a highly costly, toxic antiretroviral drug that may include resistance as one of its challenges to being effectively utilized. (Let alone the fact that some 10 million people living with HIV right now are clinically eligible for antiviral treatment–but can’t access it.)


2 thoughts on “Natural Agents to Prevent HIV?

  1. Do note, even if this works, that resistance will threaten the efficacy of this treatment as well. HIV is not ‘naturally’ resistant to certain things and non-resistant to others, rather resistance to any therapy we use will be selected for given time.

    • Hi–thanks for the comment!
      Resistance to a lectin-binding agent is somewhat harder to develop, though of course not impossible. HIV’s outer envelope, or gp120, is a large protein that has portions that mutate readily. This is because the amino acid sequences can be readily swapped out.
      By contrast, proteins that bind the sugars that coat gp120 are tougher for HIV to get around. They note that in this article:

      The other issue for me is that, at least so far, these are not yet therapies to treat HIV but rather an approach prevent infection. By contrast, tenofovir-emtricitabine, as found in “PREP”, is a drug therapy used to treat HIV. Giving it to HIV-negative people orally may work–but only if they are highly adherent. With stronger adherence, though, comes the risk of either being infected with a virus already resistant to the drugs, as well as outrageously enormous cost and significant potential for toxicities, including bone and kidney damage. Meanwhile, those drugs are desperately needed by many people living with HIV who so far have not been given treatment.

      The more tools we have in the arsenal to prevent and treat HIV disease, the faster we can eliminate this scourge from the planet. A cure for HIV is what we need!

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