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Rodent of the Week: Preventing HIV infection

January 22, 2010 |  1:00 pm

Rodent_of_the_week A study in mice raises the possibility of preventing HIV transmission in humans. Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that administering antiretroviral drugs to mice prior to HIV exposure protected against intravenous and rectal transmission of the virus. The study was published online this week in PLoS One.
The mice used in the study were humanized, meaning they were transplanted with human bone marrow, liver and thymus cells, which results in a functioning human immune system. In the study, the mice either received no drugs or were given commonly prescribed antiretroviral drug therapy and then were exposed to HIV either rectally or intravenously at a higher level than would occur in a typical human.

None of nine treated mice exposed rectally showed signs of HIV infection. But 12 of the 19 control mice became infected. Among the mice exposed intravenously, all six of the control mice became infected but seven of the eight treated mice were protected against infection.
"These results provide evidence that a universal approach to prevent all forms of HIV transmission in all settings might be possible," J. Victor Garcia-Martinez, the lead author of the study, said in a news release. "This could greatly facilitate the implementation of a single program capable of targeting virtually all groups of people at high risk of HIV infection."
Results in mice cannot be extrapolated to humans, the researchers noted. However, there are some pre-exposure trials underway in humans, and this new paper should bolster support for moving forward with that research.
-- Shari Roan
Photo credit: Advanced Cell Technology Inc.