THURSDAY, April 19, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- German scientists say they've spotted a natural ingredient in human blood that prevents the HIV-1 virus from infecting immune cells.
The finding, reported in the April 20 issue of the journal Cell, could lead to the development of a new class of drugs to fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The team found that fragments of a blood molecule they call Virus-Inhibitory Peptide (VIRIP) inhibit HIV-1 and that making a few amino acid changes increased VIRIP's ability to block the virus.
The researchers also found that VIRIP and its derivatives were effective against drug-resistant strains of HIV.
"The findings reveal a new target for inhibiting HIV that remains fully active against viral strains that are resistant to other drugs. That's a big advantage," study author Frank Kirchhoff, of the University of Ulm, said in a prepared statement.
Currently, there are about 20 different HIV drugs categorized into four different classes based on their modes of action, Kirchhoff noted. A number of HIV strains are becoming drug resistant, and HIV resistance to one drug can lead to resistance to other drugs in the same class.
"You want a lot of drug classes, because multi-drug resistant viruses are starting to show up more and more. In at least some industrialized countries, it is already a severe problem," Kirchhoff said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about HIV drugs.