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Surprising Science

Have Scientists Found HIV’s Achilles’ Heel?

Scientists have discovered a class of chemicals that stick strongly to the sugary shell which coats the HIV virus. The coating enables the virus to slip past the body’s immune system.

What’s the Latest Development?

A team of Japanese scientists have discovered a way to circumvent one of HIV’s most potent defense mechanisms. The discovery involves a family of chemical compounds known as pradimicin A1 which stick strongly to the exterior coating of the HIV virus, called mannose. “By sticking to mannose in the virus’s coat, pradimicin A first freezes HIV’s molecular machinery for entering and infecting its host’s healthy cells. The virus responds by reducing the mannose in its coat thereby revealing itself to the immune system, which can then attack.”

What’s the Big Idea?

To date, HIV has triumphed by essentially cloaking itself. The mannose that coats the exterior of an HIV virus is composed of sugar which the body’s immune system does not recognize as a threat. HIV is therefore allowed to pass unchallenged throughout the body as it infects healthy host cells.”Having determined how and where pradimicin A grabs mannose, the researchers’ next step will be to use the technique to identify the specific molecular interactions that bind the pradmicin A to this potential Achilles’ heel of HIV.”

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