Chemical in Bananas Might Combat HIV Infection

TUESDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- A natural chemical in bananas may help protect women against sexual transmission of HIV, U.S. researchers report.

In laboratory tests, they found that a lectin called BanLec was as potent as two current HIV drugs. Lectins -- sugar-binding proteins found in plants -- can identify and attach to foreign invaders. By binding to the sugar-rich HIV-1 envelope protein gp120, BanLec blocks HIV's entry into the body.

The finding, published in the March 19 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, suggests that BanLec could become a less expensive and highly effective new component of vaginal microbicides, according to the University of Michigan Medical School researchers.

"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," study author Michael D. Swanson, a doctoral student in the graduate program in immunology, said in a news release from the school. "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."

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, March 15, 2010