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Nature's Own?

Nature's Own?


If Australian microbicide researcher Roger Short is correct, a twist of lemon or lime not only might liven up a cold beverage but also help prevent HIV infections. Short is studying using lemon or lime juice to make the vaginal environment so acidic that HIV and other pathogens die before infection can occur. One of the six microbicide products currently in advanced human tests'BufferGel, developed by ReProtect and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases'similarly seeks to prevent HIV transmissions by lowering vaginal pH. Short told attendees at the 15th International AIDS Conference, held in July in Bangkok, that lemon juice has been used for centuries throughout the world--and for a time at a pioneering U.K. clinic in the early 20th century--as a folk method to prevent pregnancy. The fruits also are cheap and are grown in many regions of the world, which would be a key benefit in developing countries with high HIV rates. Early laboratory tests of a product containing a 20% concentration of lemon juice showed it inactivated 90% of HIV in a cell culture within two minutes of exposure, according to data presented by Short at the AIDS conference. Human safety studies are now planned. But do not rush to get in a pucker just yet. Critics say acidic fruit juices could damage the cells lining the vagina or rectum, actually making HIV infection easier. But Short says animal tests showed the products did not damage vaginal tissues. Short also says he has learned that sex workers in Nigeria have long used lemon and lime juice as contraceptive and anti-infective agents without any ill effects. For now, though, the jury is officially out on the final word about this twist.

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