[insert random collection of Ray Comfort jokes here]
Well, this is a welcome bit of good news!
Lectins are proteins that bind to specific sugars. For example, in humans, lets say you are infected with Staphylococus aureus. Your human lectins ignore ‘your’ sugar, but they recognize that the bacteria are making the ‘wrong’ sugar, and stick to them. This sets off a cascade of events that ends with the bacteria getting blown up.
Swanson et al have found a lectin in bananas (‘BanLec’, heh) that really likes high-mannose sugars. Well… the HIV-1 envelope is coated in sugar (~50% of its molecular weight!), including high-mannose sugars. So theoretically, if BanLec binds to HIV-1 env before HIV-1 got to cells, BanLec would interfere with envelopes ability to interact with host-cell receptors, thus preventing HIV-1 from being able to infect cells!
They found that BanLec does inhibit HIV-1s ability to infect cells– Lab strains and patient isolates, from different subtypes with co-receptor usages.
It competes with a weird HIV-1 antibody, 2G12. This antibody is weird because its conformational and sugar-dependent (you normally dont make antibodies to sugars), so they know BanLec is actually binding to HIV-1, and preventing infection (its not altering the host cells, its binding to virus).
AND BanLecs inhibition abilities are comparable to HIV-1 entry inhibitors already on the market: anti-CD4 antibodies, T-20, and maraviroc.
Taken together, our data suggest that BanLec inhibits infection with a broad range of HIV-1 isolates by blocking viral entry, compares favorably with the potency of previously described lectins and clinically available anti-HIV drugs, and is a potential component for future anti-HIV vaginal microbicides.
Purify this protein from bananas, get it in efficacious doses in microbicides/condoms, stop a bunch of new HIV-1 infections! SWEET!
The only drawback? BanLec is a mitogen (it can cause cancer). *wince* BUT, they might be able to make some artificial modifications to this ‘natural’ lectin to prevent this, and, no one has evaluated mitogenic dose vs anti-HIV dose, so, there still might be some hope for this.
Oh, and there is not enough of BanLec in bananas for this to be a ‘NATUROPATHIC CURE FOR AIDS’. You have to concentrate it, big time, to get a pharmacological dose. So, dont even think about it (I know you already thought about it, dirty monkeys).