LOS ANGELES, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Researchers at University of Utah have developed a promising new anti-HIV drug that prevents HIV from attacking human cells.
The researchers said they hoped to begin human clinical trials in two to three years.
The drug, PIE12-trimer, is ideally suited for use as a vaginal microbicide (topically applied drug) to prevent HIV infection, the researchers said in the study appearing Wednesday in the online issue of the Journal of Virology.
PIE12-trimer was designed with a unique "resistance capacitor" that provides it with a strong defense against the emergence of drug-resistant viruses.
The drug consists of three D-peptides (PIE12) linked together that block a "pocket" on the surface of HIV critical for HIV's gaining entry into the cell.
"Clinical trials will determine if PIE12-trimer is as effective in humans as it is in the lab," said Michael S. Kay, associate professor of biochemistry in the University of Utah School of Medicine.
The study is particularly focused on preventing the spread of HIV in Africa, which has an estimated two-thirds of the world's 33 million HIV patients according to the World Health Organization.
"We believe that PIE12-trimer could provide a major new weapon in the arsenal against HIV/AIDS," said Kay.
"Because of its ability to block the virus from infecting new cells, PIE12-trimer has the potential to work as a microbicide to prevent people from contracting HIV and as a treatment for HIV infected people. HIV can develop resistance rapidly to existing drugs, so there is a constant need to develop new drugs in hopes of staying ahead of the virus."
Across the world, HIV occurs in many different strains and has the ability to mutate to resist drugs aimed at stopping it. Due to the high conservation of the pocket region across strains, PIE12- trimer worked against all major HIV strains worldwide, from Southeast Asia and South America to the United States and Africa, the researchers explained.