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STD tests reveal that nearly 50,000 Americans get infected with HIV annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, there is no cure for HIV, only antiviral treatments to prolong the patient's life. But new research has found a compound in soybeans that may be a possible treatment for those living with HIV.
A study from George Mason University National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases discovered that genistein, which is a plant-based compound, may help to inhibit the HIV infection. However, the researchers are quick to note that eating large quantities of soy products is not guaranteed to treat HIV.
"Although genistein is rich in several plants such as soybeans, it is still uncertain whether the amount of genistein we consume from eating soy is sufficient to inhibit HIV," said Yuntao Wu, lead author of the study.
HIV infects cells by tricking them into sending signals into their interior in order to change their structure. This enables the virus to enter the cell and spread infection. According to the report, genistein works by blocking the communication between cell's surface sensors and its interior. This is very different than current HIV treatments, which work to stop the virus directly.
"Instead of directly acting on the virus, genistein interferes with the cellular processes that are necessary for the virus to infect cells," Wu said. "Thus, it makes the virus more difficult to become resistant to the drug."
Plant-based treatment and current medications
Wu went on to note that his team's study is still in its early stages, but if the soy compound proves to be effective at inhibiting the virus, it could be developed into a complement treatment. The researchers also hope that using the natural product may help avoid drug toxicity in HIV patients. HIV treatment regimens usually involve multiple drugs, which often lead to adverse side effects.
HIV also mutates to become resistant to traditional treatments, making the need for a new medication much more drastic. The researchers are currently testing to determine how much of the compound is necessary to effectively treat the virus. Wu noted that there may not be enough genistein in plants naturally, so a new drug might need to be developed.
According to the CDC, 1.1 million people in the U.S. are currently living with HIV.
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