Science News

Can Green Tea Prevent Hiv Infection ?

Sun, 30th Nov 2003

Part of the show How age affects DNA and How the Body Clock Works

Green tea is slightly different from your average cuppa. It is made from the leaves of the evergreen Camellia sinensis plant, and is touted by many people as a bit of a wonder-drink, preventing cancer and heart disease. It contains chemicals called catechins, especially one called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. This chemical is thought to be responsible for the health benefits of green tea. Now researchers in Texas have found that EGCG can stop HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from binding to cells in the immune system. This binding is the first step in HIV infection, so if it can be blocked, then HIV infection might be avoided. But the researchers stress that drinking green tea is not enough to avoid HIV infection- as the amounts of EGCG they used in their experiments were many times greater than the amount you get from a cup of tea. But they think that agents based on EGCG, or which work in a similar way, might form the basis of new anti-HIV drugs in the future.

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