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A plentiful ingredient found in human semen drastically enhances the ability of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to cause infection, according to a report in the December 14, 2007, issue of the journal Cell. The findings help to understand the sexual transmission of HIV and suggest a potential new target for preventing the spread of AIDS, the researchers said.
..."The fibrils act like a ferry. They pick the viruses up and then bring them to the cell," adds fellow researcher Wolf-Georg Forssmann at the Hannover Medical School, also in Germany.
Significantly, their laboratory tests showed that the fibrils' ability to assist infection was greatest when the levels of infectious virus were low – resembling the conditions in which sexual HIV-1 transmission usually occurs.
HIV-1, the most common and virulent form of the virus that causes AIDS, has infected about 60 million people and caused over 20 million deaths. Globally, most infections result from genital exposure to the semen of HIV-positive men...