Scientists have genetically modified bacteria living in the human body to produce chemicals that block HIV infection. Although the research is still at an early stage, they hope it could eventually lead to a practical and cost effective new way to combat the virus. As of December 2004, there are 39.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS. The research, by the US National Cancer Institute, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Most HIV transmission occurs on the surfaces of the gut and reproductive areas which are normally coated with a layer of bacteria. The researchers modified one of these bacteria - a form of E.coli - so that it began to secrete proteins that block HIV from infecting its target cells.