Despite years of research, there is only one effective microbicide to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, which causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Microbicide development has focused on gels and other treatments that would be applied vaginally by women, particularly in Africa and other developing regions.
To establish infection, HIV must first enter the cells of a host organism and then take control of the cells’ replication machinery to make copies of itself. Those HIV copies in turn infect other cells. These two steps of the HIV life cycle, known as viral entry and viral replication, each provide a potential target for anti-AIDS medicines.
“Most of the anti-HIV drugs in clinical trials target the machinery involved in viral replication,” says the study’s senior author, Patrick F. Kiser, associate professor of bioengineering and adjunct associate professor of pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Utah.
“There is a gap in the HIV treatment pipeline for cost-effective and mass-producible viral entry inhibitors that can inactivate the virus before it has a chance to interact with target cells,” he says.