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Published on 17 March 2010

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Bananas ‘hold key to fighting HIV’


Bananas could help save millions of lives, Aids researchers in the US have claimed.

A lectin found in the fruit has been found to be as effective at fighting infection as two commonly-used HIV drugs.

Affordable treatments based on the ingredient BanLec could be developed, according to the study reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Researchers found that the lectin found in bananas can inhibit HIV infection by blocking the virus’s entry into the body. BanLec acts on the protein “envelope” that encloses HIV’s genetic material.

Lead author Michael Swanson, from the University of Michigan, said: “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.

“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.”

The research is reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

BanLec was as effective in the laboratory as two anti-HIV drugs now in use, T-20 and maraviroc, the scientists found.

Mr Swanson is developing a process to alter BanLec and make it suitable for human patients. The researchers believe it could be used alone or in conjunction with other anti-HIV drugs.

Copyright Press Association 2010
Journal of Biological Chemistry

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