'Body armour' to fight HIV

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SCIENTISTS are developing biological 'body armour' that can protect against infection from the deadly HIV virus.

Researchers at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, together with teams in the Netherlands and the United States, have produced a 'friendly'

bacteria. The probiotic bug found in yoghurt and naturally in the human body, has been genetically altered so it destroys the HIV virus.

They now hope to produce a pill that can be taken to cause the modified bacteria to grow in the body and provide protection against HIV.

Dr Sean Hanniffy, who led the UK work, explained that regular doses would help to keep the bacteria at the optimum level to guard against infection. The researchers in Norwich genetically altered lactic acid bacteria to enable it to produce a compound developed in the US that prevents the HIV virus from binding to human cells.

By growing in the bodily fluids, where HIV usually enters the body, it can form a protective barrier against the virus.

"Our research is quite different from trying to produce a vaccine," said Hanniffy.

"We have taken a 'good bacteria' that is already found in the urogenital tract, so we knew it could survive the acidic conditions there, and altered it so it produces a virucide.

"This binds to the HIV virus and prevents it from infecting cells. We have shown in the laboratory that it can prevent infection and are now to start animal trials."