AN INTERNATIONAL team of researchers from Spain, the United States, and the United Kingdom has successfully created a strain of genetically modified (GM) rice that will produce HIV-neutralising proteins.
Scientists have been developing possible treatments for people infected with HIV. Their efforts to produce a vaccine against the virus have been unsuccessful, but oral medications have been developed that can stave off an infection for a short period of time.
These medications, however, are unavailable in third world countries.
To help people who are at risk, the research team developed a strain of rice with the same HIV-neutralising proteins as the oral medications.
Once grown, the rice produces seeds that can be processed on-site to make a topical cream containing the proteins. The cream can then be applied to the skin to allow the proteins to enter the body.
The GM rice produces one type of antibody and two kinds of proteins that bind directly to the HIV virus, preventing them from interacting with human cells. The researchers note that the cost of making the cream is nominal once the rice has been grown, and people living in infection areas can grow as much of the rice as they need, then make the paste and apply it themselves.