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Common bacteria could eventually be used to cut female HIV infections

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health report a genetically engineered bacteria common to the vagina can cut HIV infections by 63 percent.

The blog IRMA – Rectal Microbicide Advocacy reports on the study:

Dean Hamer of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues engineered naturally occurring vaginal bacteria to produce the anti-HIV protein cyanovirin-N.

They applied a gel containing the bacteria to the vaginas of rhesus macaques before infecting them by the same route with a hybrid of SIV and HIV. The engineered bacteria cut the infection rate by 63 percent.

This study is one in a series of recent studies of microbicides. In July of last year, researchers announced that Tenofovir Vaginal Microbicide Gel — a gel containing the antiretorviral drug Tenofovir, brand name Viread — reduced HIV infection by 39 percent. The study was conducted in South Africa, which has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world.

Many scientists are turning towards the use of medications as a prevention model, as they learn more about the virus.

In the last year, a study was released about the use of Truvada once a day to prevent HIV infection in men who have sex with men. That study found that men who have sex with men who were engaged in high risk behavior saw significant protection against HIV, but only if they took the medication daily. Those who did not take the pill daily still saw some effect in preventing infection, but it was significantly lower.

In another study, researchers determined that the use of the medications by a person infected with HIV had a 96 percent ability to prevent infection of their uninfected partner.

The use of the medications to prevent infections after an exposure has been a standard protocol in medical communities since 1987. It was expanded to sexual and needle sharing exposures for non-medical exposures by the CDC in 2005. That prevention is called Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) for medical providers and non-occupational Post Exposure Prophylaxis (n-PEP) for all others. The Michigan Department of Community Health did not have any guidance in relation to n-PEP protocol until earlier this year, after a 2009 investigation by Michigan Messenger showed the ability to access the life saving prescription varied widely depending on where in the state one lived.

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