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Bananas may hold key in fight against Aids

Published 16/03/2010

Bananas may hold the key to powerful new treatments that protect against the Aids virus.

In laboratory tests scientists found that a banana ingredient called BanLec was as potent as two existing anti-HIV drugs.

They believe cheap therapies based on BanLec have the potential to save millions of lives.

The ingredient is a lectin, a naturally occurring chemical in plants which fights infection.

Researchers in the US found that the lectin found in bananas can inhibit HIV infection by blocking the virus's entry into the

body.

BanLec acts on the protein “envelope” that encloses HIV's genetic material.

“The problem with some HIV drugs is that the virus can mutate and become resistant but that's much harder to do in the presence of lectins,” lead author Michael Swanson, from the University of Michigan, said.

“Lectins can bind to the sugars found on different spots of the HIV-1 envelope and presumably it will take multiple mutations for the virus to get around them.”

The research is reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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