Molecule in Soy Sauce May Treat Drug-Resistant HIV
Time to order Chinese take-out! Scientists have accidentally discovered that a molecule used to enhance the flavor of common soy sauce can actually help stop HIV from spreading, and is even effective in patients taking drugs like Tenofovir, who have resistance to drug therapy regimens.
"Patients who are treated for HIV infections with Tenofovir, eventually develop resistance to the drugs that prevent an effective or successful defense against the virus," Stefan Sarafianos, associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the University of Missouri School of Medicine, and a virologist at the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU, told Business Standard. "EFdA, the molecule we are studying, is less likely to cause resistance in HIV patients because it is more readily activated and is less quickly broken down by the body as similar existing drugs."
Business Standard reports virologists at the University of Missouri are currently testing medications that stop HIV from spreading, using a molecule that a Japanese soy sauce company accidentally discovered in 2001, while trying to enhance the flavor of their product.
The molecule, EFdA, is part of the family of compounds known as "nucleoside analogues," which are very similar to existing drugs for the treatment of HIV. They sent the samples for further testing, which confirmed EFdA's potential and started a decade of research.
It is now part of the class of compounds known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), along with eight existing HIV drugs. These drugs stop HIV from replicating by tricking building blocks inside the virus to use the EFdA, which prevents HIV replication and halts the spread of the virus.
Nature World News reports that while most of these "impostor molecule" treatments eventually lead to the HIV virus developing a K65R RT mutation and rendering drugs like Tenofivir useless, these soy sauce molecules are not only a longer-lasting treatment option, but are also 70 times more potent to drug resistant HIV.
Sarafianos and his colleagues, plus researchers from the University of Pittsburg and the National Institutes of Health, have helped break down how EFdA works on a molecular level. These used virology techniques and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) to piece together the exact structure and configuration of the molecule. Now, they are working with Merck Pharmaceuticals to test compounds for usefulness as potential HIV-halting drugs.
This story is part of our special report titled "Living Well with HIV." Want to read more? Here's the full list.