A natural peptide found in human blood blocks HIV from entering the immune cells it targets, and a few amino acid changes make the peptide 100 times more potent, according to new findings by German scientists (Münch J et al. Cell. 2007;129:263-275). Because the mechanism of action differs from those of existing anti-HIV drugs, the discovery could lead to the development of a new class of drugs for treating HIV infection, the researchers said.
The substance, which the researchers named virus-inhibitory peptide (VIRIP), is a fragment of a relatively abundant protease inhibitor. It binds to gp41 fusion peptide, a conserved region of an HIV glycoprotein that becomes exposed as the virus begins the process of infecting a host cell.
Stephenson J. Natural HIV Inhibitor. JAMA. 2007;297(19):2069. doi:10.1001/jama.297.19.2069-a