American researchers believe they have found a new molecule which could hugely reduce rates of HIV infection.
Researchers from the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology are hopeful that an agent known as surfen may be used to produce effective microbicides.
The scientists had been looking at ways to block the action of SEVI (semen-derived enhancer of virus infection), a naturally occurring protein in seminal fluid which increases HIV’s ability to attach to white blood cells by 100,000 times.
Based on preliminary research, surfen has the ability to impede SEVI from binding to HIV cells and to host cells — a double action which could be effective in a microbicide.
“We might be able to create combination microbicides that include agents targeting both the virus and host factors promoting infection,” laboratory director Dr Warner Greene explained. “Such combinations might greatly diminish the spread of HIV.
“Although HIV readily replicates once inside the body, the virus struggles to establish a beachhead of infection during sexual transmission, and knowing more about surfen, a SEVI inhibitor, might enable us to lower transmission rates.
“Supplementing current HIV microbicide candidates with SEVI inhibitors, such as surfen, might increase their potency and overall effectiveness.”
Researchers from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research or from AFAO could not be contacted over the holiday period to comment on the research or future access for Australians.

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