A banana a day keeps HIV away?

Yes, you read that right, and no, this isn’t our attempt at an early April Fool’s day story.  Your favorite fruit really might be even healthier for you than you thought.

Scientists have discovered that bananas may hold the key to preventing sexual transmission of HIV. Researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School have shown that a chemical found in bananas is better at preventing HIV than two current synthetic anti-HIV drugs.

The miracle substance is called BanLec, a type of lectin.

BanLec, works by binding to the sugar-rich envelope that encases the HIV virus and blocks its entry into the body.  BanLec could therefore be incorporated into a vaginal ointment and could be self-applied before sexual contact.  Researchers believe it would be much cheaper to produce and distribute than most current anti-retroviral medications which require the production of synthetic components.

One thing’s for sure: new ways of stopping the transmission of HIV are desperately needed. “HIV is still rampant in the U.S. and the explosion in poorer countries continues to be a problem” said study senior author Professor David Marvovitz, M.D.

Condoms are effective, but they are often used incorrectly or inconsistently.

Although clinical use of BanLec is probably years away, researchers believe that even modest success could save millions of lives. They estimate that if as little as 20% of the “at risk” population used a drug that is only 60 percent effective against HIV, it could still prevent up to 2.5 million infections over the course of three years.

It’s been more than two decades since HIV and AIDS began sweeping the globe, during which time hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on research and the elusive hunt for a vaccine or a cure.  Who’d have thought  that the answer may have been literally hanging in front of us all this time?