AIDS drugs may prevent vaginal transmission of HIV

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Prescription drugs now used to treat human immunodeficiency virus infection in adults may prevent the vaginal transmission of HIV, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found.

Using a highly sophisticated human/mouse chimera or “humanized mouse” model, the UT Southwestern researchers discovered that anti-retroviral drugs given daily before and after exposure to HIV can prevent vaginal transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. Worldwide, the vast majority of newly acquired HIV infections occur through unprotected vaginal sex with an infected partner.

The study, appearing online today in PLoS Medicine, used human/mouse chimeras that have fully developed human immune systems and produce the infection-fighting cells that are specifically targeted by HIV in humans.

While almost 90 percent of the humanized mice inoculated vaginally with HIV became infected with the virus, none of the humanized mice given the anti-retroviral drugs emtricitabine (FTC) and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) displayed any evidence of infection.

“Our motivation is to look for interventions that can be implemented rapidly and have the potential to make a big difference,” said Dr. J. Victor Garcia-Martinez, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and the study’s senior author. “We don’t want something in 10 years. We want female-controlled prevention measures now. Our observations support the potential for antiviral drugs to function as an effective pre-exposure prophylaxis against the further spread of AIDS.”

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the study were lead author and student research assistant Paul Denton; research assistants Daniel Powell and Florence Othieno; postdoctoral researchers Dr. Zhifeng Sun and Dr. Anja Wege; former postdoctoral researcher Dr. Bangdong Wei; and Dr. Deborah Payne, associate professor of pathology. Drs. Jacob Estes and Ashley Haase from the University of Minnesota also participated.

The National Institutes of Health supported the study.

Source: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, USA

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