Would protection against the deadly human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) make you willing to give up your vegan lifestyle? New research from Australia’s Melbourne University suggests that a type of treated cow’s milk could provide the world’s first HIV vaccine.
Working together with biotechnology company Immuron Ltd., the Australian research team vaccinated pregnant dairy cows with an HIV protein. This injection posed no risk to the cows, as they are unable to contract the disease, according to researchers. After giving birth, the first milk produced by the cows was found to contain HIV-disabling antibodies.
“While cows cannot contract HIV themselves, they do nonetheless produce antibodies in response to the introduction of the foreign protein,” reports Gizmag. “Those antibodies are passed along in the colostrum, or first milk – that milk already has a naturally high antibody content, in order to protect newborn calves against infections.”
“We were able to harvest antibodies specific to the HIV surface protein from the milk,” said Dr. Marit Kramski, who is presenting her research 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 human cells,” she said.
Despite what you may be thinking, the answer to slowing the spread of HIV won’t be to add “8 ounces of colostrum” to the Food Pyramid. The researchers say HIV-inhibiting antibodies from cows’ milk will be developed into a cream called a microbicide that is applied into the vagina to protect women from contracting sexually transmitted infections.