Researchers reported Tuesday in New Orleans at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology that two strains of Lactobacillus bacteria in the mouth can hook onto HIV and prevent it from getting into cells, which could help protect infants from catching the virus from their mothers. The bacteria also caused immune cells to clump, which could be used to prevent HIV-infected cells from infecting other cells.
"While studies have been done so far only in the laboratory, we believe this work opens up new possibilities for preventing the transmission of HIV through mothers' milk," said Lin Tao, associate professor of oral biology at the University of Illinois-Chicago's College of Dentistry. "Unlike standard retroviral drugs, which are too toxic for newborns, lactobacilli are 'friendly' bacteria already inhabiting the human digestive tract and milk products, and so should pose no danger to infants."
Giving the mother and baby antiretroviral drugs at birth can protect the infants, but they risk becoming infected later if they are breastfeeding. In some areas, an estimated 25 percent of babies born HIV-free are infected by breastfeeding. Up to 800,000 babies are infected with HIV each year worldwide.
Tao's team studied bacteria taken from volunteers. "The two strains were found to bind with several varieties of HIV, the related simian immunodeficiency virus, and immune cells that HIV targets for infection," Tao said. "Further analysis showed that the bacteria inhibited HIV infection of immune cells in the laboratory."
The American Society for Microbiology 2004 presentation is "Lactobacillus Traps HIV by Mannose-Specific Binding," (presentation number: T-031; poster board number: 621).
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network.
It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.