Anti-HIV supplement 'promising'
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Anti-HIV supplement 'promising'

Thai researchers working on an anti-HIV supplement from natural extracts of five plants namely mangosteen, gotu kola, guava, black sesame and soybean say the formula shows promise.

If proved successful it would make it the world's first anti-HIV agent of its kind.

After three years of testing, researchers claim the supplement, which is named LIV (Live Happily with HIV), can increase CD4 cells — a type of white blood cell that fights infection — and reduce the spread of the HIV virus in the body by boosting the growth of T helper 17 or Th17, a type of immune cell whose functions are to rid the body of bacteria, virus and cancerous cells.

The breakthrough also claims to help prevent opportunistic infections commonly found in HIV/Aids-infected patients and is said to have less unwanted side effects than antiretroviral medication.

Prof Pichaet Wiriyachitra, head of the Thai Mangosteen Research and Development Centre and CEO of Asian Phytoceuticals, said that the discovery is based on research in the United States which revealed that the increase in Th17 among HIV/Aids-infected patients could keep the HIV virus at bay.

Prof Pichaet together with Assoc Prof Ampai Panthong from the Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University and scientists from the Biomedical Technology Research Unit, Chiang Mai University later decided to further develop the US research.

In tests, a group of HIV/Aids-infected volunteers from around Thailand was prescribed four capsules of the anti-HIV supplement per day. Another group was given corn starch placebos.

"After 15 days, all volunteers had a blood test to examine their white blood cells. And it was found that the level of Th17 among those who took the anti-HIV supplement was five times higher than those who took placebos," Dr Pichaet said.

Kannika Ruenchan, chief researcher at the Boromarajonani College of Nursing in Chiang Mai, said the quality of life improved for HIV/Aids-infected volunteers who took the anti-HIV supplement, especially those who refused to take antiretroviral medication for fear of its side effects.

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