Applied oestrogen may protect men from HIV

June 5th, 2008 - 10:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 5 (IANS) Locally applied oestrogen could help protect men from an HIV infection by blocking the entry of the virus into their penises, a study has found. Applying oestrogen to the male organ was found to increase the thickness of its natural keratin layer, which could prevent an HIV infection, the study by Australian researchers said.

Andrew Pask of the University of Melbourne discovered that the epithelium of the human penis is richly supplied with oestrogen receptors, which meant it could respond to topical oestrogen.

“This suggested that oestrogen could induce a thickening of the keratin layer of the foreskin epidermis in the same way as it acts in the vagina,” said Pask, who analysed tissue samples from 12 human foreskins.

“Keratin on our skin acts as a barrier to viral infection. We hope to be able to enhance this protection with the use of a naturally occurring, weak oestrogen,” said Roger Short, who led the research.

Short said that HIV is on the rise particularly in countries where men are not circumcised.

HIV is one of the greatest health crises the world has ever seen, and affects over 40 million people worldwide.

The findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of the journal PLoS One.

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