May 20, 2009

Green Tea Extract Could Reduce Spread Of HIV

According to a recent study, HIV transmission can be restrained with a chemical commonly found in green tea.

Experts from Germany's University of Heidelberg suggested using the compound in vaginal creams to supplement antiretrovirals.

They believe the compound could be a low-cost way to fight the spread of HIV in poorer nations.

In the study, researchers discovered that the green tea polyphenol, called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is capable of neutralizing a protein in sperm that normally serves as a means for viral transmission during sex.

EGCG degrades the semen-derived enhancer of virus infection, or SEVI, which the study describes as "an important infectivity factor of HIV."

In the report, which appears in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers said they "recently identified a peptide fraction in human semen that consistently enhanced HIV-1 infection."

SEVIs imprison viral elements and attach them to the surface of target cells, thus diminishing a cell's ability to stop viral threats.

The EGCG compound "targets SEVI for degradation" and "abrogates semen-mediated enhancement of HIV-1 infection in the absence of cellular toxicity," said the scientists.

"EGCG appears to be a promising supplement to antiretroviral microbicides to reduce sexual transmission of HIV-1," the study authors added.

Currently, the majority of the world's 33 million infected with HIV contracted the virus through heterosexual means.  Nearly 96 percent of new infections also occur in developing nations.  These facts led the researchers to suggest that using EGCG in topical creams could "provide a simple and affordable prevention method" to guard against the spread of HIV.

Green tea, which originated in China and is widely across the globe, is already popular for its antioxidant qualities.

Many of the researchers from the study work at the University of Heidelberg's Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology.


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