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Semen Helps HIV Infect Cells

Study finds possible explanation for microbicide failure

Researchers have had a devil of a time developing genital gels or creams to protect against AIDS-causing virus. A new study may explain why this endeavor has been so difficult: Semen increases HIV’s ability to infect cells.

“We think this may be one of the factors explaining why so many drugs that efficiently blocked HIV infection in laboratory experiments did not work in a real world setting,” Nadia Roan of the University of California, San Francisco, and the Gladstone Institutes, told NBC News.

In the study, researchers tested different microbicides on HIV and found that including semen in the mix made it 10 times easier for HIV to infect cells, leaving the microbicides 20 times less effective.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel. The seminal fluid boost doesn’t happen with an HIV drug called maraviroc. This could prove useful in future efforts to create new microbicides.


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