Human tests for HIV weapon
By Paula Beauchamp
July 12, 2004
Source: The Australian News
A MELBOURNE scientist's discovery that lemon juice kills the AIDS virus in the lab will be tested on humans in Thailand.
The Thai Government will fund the trial, which will involve at least 400 Thai men and women.
University of Melbourne's Professor Roger Short made the discovery after he realised acids killed the virus.
When he put lemon juice in a test tube with HIV-positive sperm, the sperm were permanently immobilised within 30 seconds.
Experiments also showed a solution of 20 per cent lemon juice reduced viral loads in the lab by 90 per cent.
The lemon juice also killed syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
Officials at the international AIDS conference in Bangkok announced the first human trial.
Thai women taking part in the test will soak a sponge in lemon juice and insert it before sex.
A Melbourne spokesman for Professor Short, Brian Haill, said the Federal Government had refused to fund human trials of the discovery.
Yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer announced Australia would increase funding to tackle the looming HIV/AIDS crisis in the Asia-Pacific region.
The funding would reach $600 million by 2010, he said.
He also appointed Australia's first special representative on HIV/AIDS, Annmaree O'Keeffe.
VicHealth CEO Rob Moodie, who is part of the LemonAIDS team, said Professor Short's findings would be rigorously tested.
"The potential of this is huge," he said. "If it proves to be effective it would be wonderful."
Testing in Thailand will begin in months. The trial comes as figures show Victorian HIV infection rates have increased.
Notifications of people infected with HIV rose from 160 a year in the late 1990s, to 216 a year since 2000.
Public Health Association of Australia president Dr Peter Sainsbury said infection rates had returned to the high level seen 10 years ago.
"We cannot afford to ignore this alarming increase in HIV notifications," he said.
The number of infections due to heterosexual contact jumped 53 per cent to 46 a year.
HIV infections among men who have sex with men acquired from casual or anonymous partners had jumped from 65 to 92 a year.