/ 26 February 2004

Miracle molecule?

Estimated worldwide HIV infections: 56 172 549 at noon on Thursday February 26 2004.

Scientists have discovered a protein in monkeys that can block infection by the virus that causes Aids.

The team, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the United States, hope their work could lead to new ways to prevent humans being infected with HIV.

They believe a similar molecule, known to exist in humans, might have the potential to stop HIV in its tracks. The molecule, named TRIM5-alpha, appears to patrol the body for viruses, and, if they enter a cell, prevents them from causing harm.

Dr Anthony Fauci, of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded the study, said: ‘Identification of this HIV-blocking factor opens new avenues for intervening in the early stage of HIV infection, before the virus can gain a toehold.”

Professor Frances Gotch, an expert in HIV at Imperial College London, said: ‘This is not a cure for Aids, but I could imagine it leading to a prophylactic treatment.”

Source: BBC News Online