Certain bacteria inside the vagina release nano-sized vesicles that may actually protect a woman from becoming infected with HIV. That’s according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Bologna, Italy and National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Leonid Margolis of NIH Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development led the study that found these extracellular vesicles are bubble-like particles that many different types of cells product. It’s believed they move molecules from cell to cell.
The researchers carried out numerous tests to show that vesicles taken from four Lactobacillus bacteria strains thwarted the AIDS-causing virus from infecting cells. Researchers, in one experiment, added vesicles to the cultures of T lymphocytes and then infected them with HIV. They found a lower level of HIV infection in treated cells than non-treated cells.
When they increased the number of vesicles in the culture, an even lower number of cells became infected with HIV.
In human vaginal tissues, uterine cervix and lymph, using the vesicle treatment can reduce the HIV infection chance. The researchers discovered that bacterial vesicles blocked the virus from binding to the cell surface, which is a key step before a cell becomes infected by the virus.
Additional experiments found that bacterial vesicles can have a direct effect on HIV. Therefore, exposing HIV to vesicles decreases the appearance of surface molecules on the outer covering of the virus, which is necessary to affix themselves to cells.