ISLAMABAD: But new research may have found a plant-derived chemical compound that is much more effective than azidothymidine.

After separating the extracts of the stems and roots of this plant using bioassay-guided isolation - which is the most common procedure for separating extracted compounds based on their biological activity - the researchers found the "anti-HIV arylnaphthalene lignan glycoside" that is patentiflorin A.

Then, Prof. Rong and team assessed the effect of the compound against the M-tropic and T-tropic HIV isolates. "Tropism" refers to the type of cells that the virus is able to invade. M-tropism refers to the virus' ability to invade macrophages, while T-tropism refers to its ability to invade T cells, which are both white blood cells with key roles in immunity.

The tropism tests showed that patentiflorin A had "a significantly higher inhibition effect than the clinically used anti-HIV drug AZT."

"Patentiflorin A was able to inhibit the action of reverse transcriptase much more effectively than AZT, and was able to do this both in the earliest stages of HIV infection when the virus enters macrophage cells, and alter infection when it is present in T cells of the immune system," Prof. Rong explains.

Prof. Lijun Rong said that "If we can make the drug in the lab, we don't need to establish farms to grow and harvest the plant, which requires significant financial investment, not to mention it has an environmental impact."

He concludes, "Patentiflorin A represents a novel anti-HIV agent that can be added to the current anti-HIV drug cocktail regimens to increase suppression of the virus and prevention of AIDS."