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Experimental drug prevents vaginal simian HIV transmission in monkeys Science study says

Potentially important insights for understanding vaginal transmission of HIV and designing new HIV prevention strategies may come from a new SHIV study in monkeys. Scientists coated the vaginal surfaces of monkeys with an experimental drug 15 minutes before exposure to the immunodeficiency virus SHIV and report that the drug protected the animals from infection.

SHIV provides a monkey model for HIV; it contains the inner parts of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and the outer parts of HIV. This study is published in the 15 October issue of the journal Science published by AAAS the nonprofit science society.

The experimental drug is a chemically synthesized protein called PSC-RANTES, designed by Science coauthors Robin Offord and Oliver Hartley from the University of Geneva in Geneva, Switzerland. It acts by preventing SHIV (and, when human cells are concerned, HIV) from latching on to cell-surface receptors called CCR5. Although in some settings, HIV may use other receptors to get into cells, the success of PSC-RANTES against SHIV in these experiments suggests that CCR5-inhibition -- alone or coupled with other approaches -- might prevent sexual HIV transmission between humans, according to the authors.

The majority of HIV infections are acquired via transmission across mucosal surfaces, especially the vagina and rectum, and substances that prevent mucosal transmission (commonly called microbicides) are urgently needed, the authors write.

"We have identified a key target for strategies to prevent vaginal HIV transmission and have a candidate molecule that blocks this target," said Science author Michael Lederman from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

"There is a real need for a topical HIV prevention strategy that women can control. This is particularly important in settings where men won't necessarily use condoms," Lederman said.

Moving from a candidate molecule to a to
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Contact: Jessica Lawrence-Hurt
jlawrenc@aaas.org
202-326-7088
American Association for the Advancement of Science
14-Oct-2004


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