Researchers develop milk that protects against HIV

October 17, 2012
Milk that protects against HIV
Marit Kramski in the lab with frozen milk delivered from the farm. Credit: Damian Purcell

Melbourne researchers have developed cows' milk that protects human cells from HIV.

The milk contains antibodies which defend against (HIV).

The next step will be to develop it into a cream which women can apply to protect themselves from contracting HIV from sexual partners.

Melbourne University's Dr Marit Kramski and colleagues found that using cows to produce HIV-inhibiting antibodies is cheaper than existing methods.

They worked with Australian Immuron Ltd to develop the milk. The scientists vaccinated pregnant cows with an and studied the first milk that cows produced after giving birth.

The first milk, called the colostrum, is naturally packed with antibodies to protect the newborn calf from infections. The vaccinated cows produced in their milk.

"We were able to harvest antibodies specific to the HIV from the milk," said Marit, who is presenting her research this week as one of the winners of Fresh Science—a national program for early-career scientists.

"We have tested these antibodies and found in our laboratory experiments that they bind to HIV and that this inhibits the virus from infecting and entering ," she said.

Cows cannot contract HIV. But their  immune systems develop antibodies against the foreign protein.

The HIV-inhibiting antibodies from cows' milk will be developed into a cream called a microbicide that is applied into the vagina before and /or after sex to protect women from contracting sexually transmitted infections. Other microbicides are being developed around the world but the antibodies in this research are easier and cheaper to produce, providing a new HIV-prevention strategy.

"We hope that our anti-HIV milk antibodies will provide a user-friendly, female-controlled, safe and effective tool for the prevention of sexually acquired ," Marit said.

"If proven effective in humans, it will empower women to protect themselves against HIV."

About 30 million people are living with HIV globally and there is presently no effective vaccine for humans.The research was supported by the Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology Research and the NHMRC.

Marit and her colleagues are now developing plans for animal and human studies.

Marit Kramski is one of 12 early career scientists unveiling their research to the public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program sponsored by the Australian Government.

Explore further: Insight into HIV immunity may lead to vaccine

More information:

Related Stories

Insight into HIV immunity may lead to vaccine

May 6, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Latest insights into immunity to HIV could help to develop a vaccine to build antibodies’ defences against the disease, a University of Melbourne study has found.

Breast milk antibody fights HIV but needs boost

September 19, 2011

Breast milk antibody both neutralizes human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and kills HIV-infected cells, according to a paper in the September 2011 issue of the Journal of Virology.

Recommended for you

Videos reveal how HIV spreads in real time

October 2, 2015

How retroviruses like HIV spread in their hosts had been unknown—until a Yale team devised a way to watch it actually happen in a living organism. The elaborate and sometimes surprising steps the virus takes to reach and ...

Researchers find proteins that shut down HIV-1

September 30, 2015

A pair of studies by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the University of Trento in Italy, and the University of Geneva in Switzerland, point to a promising new anti-retroviral strategy for combating ...

An antibody that can attack HIV in new ways

September 11, 2015

Proteins called broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) are a promising key to the prevention of infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. bNAbs have been found in blood samples from some HIV patients whose immune systems ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.