Copper inhibits transmission of hiv through breast milk and blood

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Researchers from the U.S. and abroad have developed an inexpensive copper-based filter that may prevent HIV from being passed through breast milk and blood. They report their findings in the February 2008 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Worldwide statistics of HIV transmission through breast milk and blood transfusions are at a disastrous high, especially in developing countries. In 2001 breast-feeding was attributed to up to 50% of the 700,000 mother-to-child transmission cases reported.

The World Health Organization has estimated that blood transfusions are responsible for 80,000 to 160,000 HIV infections each year, while the Center for Disease Control reports that transfusions are the cause of 5 to 10% of HIV infections in developing countries.

In previous studies copper has shown potent antibacterial and antiviral activity. In this study viral levels of HIV-1 in cultures were noted both before and after exposure to copper oxide powder, copper oxide fibers and copper-based filters. Researcher’s determined HIV-1 inhibition occurred following dose-dependant exposure to both copper oxide and copper fibers. Following filtration with copper powder or copper fibers viral deactivation of all isolates was observed.

“This inexpensive methodology may significantly reduce HIV-1 transmission from mother-to-child and/or through blood donations if proven to be effective in breast milk or plasma and safe for use,” say the researchers. “The successful application of this technology may impact HIV-1 transmission, especially in developing countries where HIV-1 is rampant.”

(G. Borkow, H.H. Lara, C.Y. Covington, A. Nyamathi, J. Gabbay. 2008. Deactivation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 in medium by copper oxide-containing filters. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 52. 2: 518-525.)

Source: American Society for Microbiology, USA

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