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U of M research finding may help prevent HIV

A University of Minnesota research team found that a common food additive was successful in preventing transmission of a virus that causes AIDS in monkeys, the Star Tribune reported. The findings were published in Nature on Wednesday.

Dr. Ashley Haase and Patrick Schlievert treated female rhesus monkeys with a gel containing glycerol monolaurate (GML) before exposing them to HIV. Two weeks later, none of the five monkeys had contracted HIV. In a control group that was not treated with the gel, four out of five had contracted the virus after the same time period, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

But researchers found that one monkey that was treated with the gel did develop the virus months later. The researchers suspected that this was due to later exposure, or a bit of undetected virus slipping by, the Star Tribune reported.

HIV utilizes the immune system's response to an infection to spread the virus throughout the body. GML freezes the cells that trigger a response by the immune system, therefore cutting off the usual way for the virus to spread, MPR reported.

The treatment would not help those who have already contracted the HIV virus, but would help to prevent the spread of HIV among uninfected people who may become exposed, the Star Tribune reported.