While we all know that sugar in moderation is best, researchers say that starving HIV of sugar may put a stop to the virus. When the virus enters an activated immune cell, it takes energy from sugar and nutrients in order to replicate. Cut off the supply of sugar, the theory goes, and HIV can't replicate in the cell.
"It's essential to find new ways to block HIV growth, because the virus is constantly mutating," says Harry Taylor, a scientist at Northwestern Medicine's HIV Translational Research Center. "A drug targeting HIV that works today may be less effective a few years down the road, because HIV can mutate itself to evade the drug."
This new approach has several benefits, including applications to cancer treatment (another disease with a powerful sweet tooth) and reduction in organ damage in HIV-positive patients. HIV causes an abnormal proliferation of immune cells, which can cause inflammation and damage to organs over time, even in patients who are on antiretroviral treatment.
"This discovery opens news avenues for further research to solve todays persisting problems in treating HIV infection: avoiding virus resistance to medicines, decreasing the inflammation that leads to premature aging, and maybe even one day being able to cure HIV infection," says Richard D'Aquila, director of Northwestern's HIV Translational Research Center.