Can We Treat HIV with Bananas?
Author: Justin Mckibben
Drug abuse and addiction have been inextricably connected to the contraction and spread of serious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. Since the beginning of the epidemic the high rate of risk involving exposure to HIV and Hepatitis has been largely due to intravenous drug use, while addiction itself has worsened throughout the opiate epidemic the consequences of these diseases.
Transmitting HIV or Hepatitis through needles is not the only risk, since many have said drug abuse and addiction has also been linked to risky sexual activity which also puts an addict at an elevated chance of contracting one of these illnesses. While the fight against HIV/AIDS has been fought for decades, and the battle against the addiction outbreak has been escalating itself, there may be a new hope to help treat HIV and Hepatitis C in a pretty unexpected place.
New research has concluded that a protein found in bananas called banana lectin (BanLec) could actually be a huge help in the battle against both HIV and Hepatitis C, putting this familiar fruit at a high priority for more investigative study.
BanLec was first discovered five years ago and examined as a potential AIDS treatment, but not without its own issues. Now a group of scientist teamed up from both the University of Michigan and Duke University in order to pull efforts in attempt to develop this new form of the potential treatment, and their results have been recently published in the journal Cell.
The data from these scientists exhibited how the BanLec protein clings to sugar molecules found on the surface of deadly viruses, such as HIV or Hepatitis, and helps render these deadly infections harmless. Dr. David Markovitz, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and co-author of the paper, was very excited to talk about these astounding findings on the BanLec binding to the harmful cells and theoretically neutralizing the damage. He stated:
“What we’ve done is exciting because there is potential for BanLec to develop into a broad spectrum anti-viral agent—something that is not clinically available to physicians and patients right now,”
When the BanLec idea was first brought to the table to be used against HIV and other viruses the preliminary applications led to a range of bad side effects, which caused the research to hit a road-block.
Now in this newly engineered version of the BanLec protein the scientists have overcome this problem, producing a new type of BanLec that does not cause unwanted irritation and inflammation as with previous trials. While this is a very exciting prospect, so far this potential drug has only been analyzed in animal and lab tests.
BanLec helped in the cases of animal testing to cure mice of a traditional flu virus that operates in the same way as HIV and hepatitis C. Considering the implications of these results, the engineered BanLec drug has the possibility of becoming an effective treatment for the most challenging viruses.
Researchers even believe the drug may work on the terrible Ebola virus, which has gained a lot of attention lately for the massive devastation it has caused in West Africa and other parts of the continent. Since the Ebola virus is covered in similar sugar molecules, there is a good chance the BanLec protein could have a similar contribution to stopping the effects of those infected cells.
But it isn’t as easy as stopping by the supermarket to pick up a bundle of bananas.
Researchers have warned that eating regular bananas will not have the same effect. The BanLec ingredient they have been developing is a modified version of the chemical found in the fruit, so don’t rush out to the nearest grocery store and stock up just yet.
Most testing still has to be done beyond the initial animal lab testing. Scientists have stated there is still a possibility that the human immune system will recognize BanLec as a foreign invader and mount an immune response to it, potentially rendering the protein ineffective. So while the hope is that this new drug could be a profound impact on the fight against HIV or Hepatitis C, the body could still reject its help.
For now, we can keep our fingers crossed and hope that further examination will render fruitful results for the future of treating HIV and Hepatitis C. With both illnesses being major health concerns with a rising risk of exposure due to increased drug use across the country this new treatment could potentially change the world.
HIV and other infectious diseases are just example one of the countless devastating side-effects of drug abuse. Too many lives are either destroyed or ended because of drugs and alcohol, but there is always a way out for those willing to seek it.
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