Australian researcher receives Campbell Foundation's grant to study HIV prevention methods

The Campbell Foundation, a Fort Lauderdale-based nonprofit that provides grants to support alternative clinical approaches to the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, has awarded an $85,000 grant to Gilda Tachedjian, PhD., Head of Life Sciences and Principal Investigator at Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Australia.

Tachedjian is studying the role of vaginal microbiota and their metabolites in modulating susceptibility to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Microbicides are compounds that, when inserted vaginally, would theoretically act to prevent the acquisition and or transmission of HIV during sexual intercourse. Microbicides contain an active ingredient that blocks HIV that can be delivered to the vagina in a gel, film, tablet or ring.

While there are several avenues available to help prevent HIV in males, the need for female-controlled HIV prevention strategies is limited. This research could have a significant impact in the prevention of HIV among women globally.”

Ken Rapkin, Executive director of The Campbell Foundation

Each week, approximately 6,000 women (aged 15-24) around the world are infected with HIV. Driving this increased risk is subclinical genital inflammation. Tachedjian and her team have discovered that lactic acid (LA), a bioactive or “postbiotic” produced by beneficial vaginal lactobacilli, has the ability to destroy HIV and also has anti-inflammatory effects. The funding will be used in the development of a custom-made lactic acid-containing intravaginal gel able to dampen vaginal inflammation associated with increased HIV risk.

Maintaining an anti-inflammatory state in the lower female reproductive tract would likely confer a protective effect against HIV acquisition. This study will answer important, but poorly understood questions, regarding the effective in vivo concentration of LA required to mediate protective effects without disrupting the growth of beneficial lactobacilli.”

Gilda Tachedjian, PhD., Head of Life Sciences and Principal Investigator at Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Australia

In approving the grant, The Campbell Foundation’s Peer Review Board members noted that the concept of vaginal microbiome modulation for the purpose of reducing HIV transmission is well established and that Professor Tachedjian and her team are uniquely positioned and experienced to move forward with this study.

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