'Living condom' may guard against HIV

Sept. 9, 2003 at 3:01 PM
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STANFORD, Calif., Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Genetically modified vaginal bacteria could serve as a "chemical or living condom" to protect women from the HIV virus, California researchers say.

Researcher Peter Lee of Stanford University used the vaginal native Lactobacillus jensenii and genetically engineered it to secrete soluble CD4, which the HIV virus grabs hold of to break into cells.

In test tube experiments, the bacteria completely blocked laboratory strains of HIV from infecting human cells, and blocked infection by a strain recently isolated from patients by more than half, New Scientist reported.

The researchers, who have started a company to study the approach's potential, are verifying whether an unmodified parental strain of the vaginal microbial flora can successfully colonize the vaginal tissues of rhesus macaque monkeys.

"We are working on production, delivery and efficacy simultaneously to try and bring this to the clinic as soon as possible," Lee told New Scientist.

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