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Green Tea Chemical Shows Potential as Low-Cost Intervention Against Sexual HIV Transmission, Study Says

May 21, 2009

A chemical found in green tea might be an effective tool against the sexual transmission of HIV, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany and published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, AFP/ reports.

According to the study, green tea polyphenol -- called epigallocatechin-3-gallete, or EGCG -- neutralizes a protein in sperm that aids in the transmission of HIV during sex. The researchers noted that they "recently identified a peptide fraction in human semen that consistently enhanced HIV-1 infection." The study found that EGCG is able to neutralize the sperm protein, known as a semen-derived enhancer of virus infection, or SEVI. The researchers said that SEVI is "an important infectivity factor of HIV."

According to the researchers, EGCG "appears to be a promising supplement to antiretroviral microbicides to reduce sexual transmission of HIV-1." The researchers said that because a majority of people living with HIV contract the disease through heterosexual transmission and that 96% of new cases are reported in developing and impoverished nations, the use of green tea in topical creams could be a "simple and affordable prevention method" (AFP/, 5/19).

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