SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a new class of compounds that stick to the coating of the HIV virus can stop it from infecting cells, a possible step to better treatment.
University of Utah scientists say the compound can act as a microbiocide by attaching to the sugary coating of the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS to prevent it from entering the cells of a host organism and taking control of the cells' replication machinery to make copies of itself, a university release said Friday.
Those two steps of the HIV life cycle, known as viral entry and viral replication, can each be a potential target for anti-HIV medicines, researchers said.
"Most of the anti-HIV drugs in clinical trials target the machinery involved in viral replication," senior author Patrick F. Kiser, Utah State professor of bioengineering and pharmaceutical chemistry, said.
"There is a gap in the HIV treatment pipeline for cost-effective and mass-producible viral entry inhibitors that can inactivate the virus before it has a chance to interact with target cells," he says.
The research has focused on lectins, a group of molecules found in nature that interact and bind with specific sugars.
The researchers have worked with synthetic lectins capable of binding to sugar residues on HIV and said they showed promise.
"The characteristics of an ideal anti-HIV microbicide include potency, broad-spectrum activity, selective inhibition, mass producibility and biocompatibility," Kiser said.
"These ... synthetic lectins seem to meet all of those criteria and present an affordable and scalable potential intervention for preventing sexual transmission in regions where HIV is pandemic."