Findings reported in an article published on June 19, 2013 in the journal Retrovirology suggest a possible role for genistein, a compound that occurs in soybeans, in combating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Genistein is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor which blocks communication from the cells’ surface sensors to their interior. This communication process is hijacked by HIV, so that the virus can send signals into the cell which enable its entry.
Yuntao Wu and his associates at George Mason University additionally discovered that sunitinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor drug, inhibited HIV infection of resting CD4 T cells.
“Instead of directly acting on the virus, genistein interferes with the cellular processes that are necessary for the virus to infect cells,” explained Dr Wu, who is a professor with the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Molecular and Microbiology at George Mason University. “Thus, it makes the virus more difficult to become resistant to the drug. Our study is currently it its early stage. If clinically proven effective, genistein may be used as a complement treatment for HIV infection.”
“Although genistein is rich in several plants such as soybeans, it is still uncertain whether the amount of genistein we consume from eating soy is sufficient to inhibit HIV,” he added.
If used by HIV patients, genistein could enable them to avoid the toxicity that is a side effect of standard antiretroviral treatment as well as the loss of effectiveness that occurs when the virus becomes drug-resistant. Preliminary testing of 10 milligrams per kilogram orally administered genistein in rhesus macaques for twelve weeks failed to elicit any adverse effects.
“These results may suggest that similar naturally-occurring kinase inhibitors, with little or no-detectable cytotoxicity, may be good candidates for long-term management of HIV infection,” Dr Wu and his co-authors note.