A peptide found in human blood inhibited 60 strains of HIV from infecting cells in laboratory tests, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Researchers found the peptide can inhibit HIV strains that have developed resistance to existing medications --a discovery that could lead to the development of new HIV/AIDS drugs -- the Chronicle reports.
Frank Kirchhoff of the University of Ulm in Germany and colleagues found the peptide, which they call VIRIP, in the residue left in filters used by kidney dialysis patients to clean their blood. According to Kirchhoff, by altering two amino acids, VIRIP's antiviral potency increased one hundredfold. VIRIP attacks a protein, called GP-41 and found on the surface of HIV, that the virus uses to penetrate the surface of human cells, the Chronicle reports.
According to Warner Greene, director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology who was not involved with the study, VIRIP stands out because it is collected from human blood. He added that the peptide might work synergistically with the antiretroviral drug Fuzeon, which also is known as enfuvirtide or T-20 and was approved by FDA in March 2003. Greene said that it is possible that VIRIP also has potential as an active ingredient for microbicides, which include gels, foams and creams that could be applied prior to sexual intercourse to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. VIRIP can be manufactured in lab settings and has been licensed by the German biotechnology company Viro Pharmaceuticals, whose scientific director is a co-author of the study. According to the Chronicle, Viro is conducting animal studies to determine if VIRIP is safe to test among humans.
Although the results so far "look promising," it will take at least five years of animal and human trials before a drug implementing VIRIP is available, according to Kirchhoff.