Using mice models a new American research has found that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment prevents HIV transmission.
J. Victor Garcia-Martinez, senior author of the study and professor in the department of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, said: "These results provide evidence that a universal approach to prevent all forms of HIV transmission in all settings might be possible.
"This could greatly facilitate the implementation of a single program capable of targeting virtually all groups of people at high risk of HIV infection."
For the study, Garcia-Martinez and his team at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center used "BLT" mice, named such because they are transplanted with human bone marrow, liver and thymus cells, which gives the animals a fully functioning human immune system.
Lead author, Paul Denton, a research instructor in the department of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, said: "Although results from humanized mice cannot be extrapolated directly to humans, our data indicate that one intervention approach could potentially block multiple routes of HIV transmission in people."
The humanized mice were either control mice and received no drugs or were given the commonly prescribed antiretroviral drug therapy Truvada and then exposed to HIV (rectally or intravenously) at a level much higher than would occur in typical human exposure.
None of the nine treated BLT mice that were exposed rectally demonstrated any sign of the virus after exposure and were completely protected. However, 12 of the 19 control BLT mice became HIV positive after rectal exposure.
Among humanized mice exposed intravenously, a transmission route that is more difficult to block, all six of the control BLT mice became infected, but seven out of eight treated BLT mice were protected against the virus.
Denton said: "Now the head of a clinical trial can take this research to a ministry of health or review board and say, 'Look, we have positive experimental evidence that if we do this right it has a chance to work,'" Denton said.
Garcia-Martinez added: "It is painfully clear that treatment alone will not put a dent in the progression of the AIDS epidemic...There is a strong need for interventions like PrEP that could prevent new infections and slow the epidemic."
The study has appeared online in the journal PLoS ONE.