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Researchers Identify Good Bacteria That Protects Against HIV

Update Date: Mar 31, 2014 09:29 AM EDT

Researchers have been able to identify good bacteria that protect women from HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections, according to a new study. 

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston grew vaginal skin cells outside the body and studied the way they interacted with the "good and bad" bacteria. 

Naturally the health of the human vagina depends upon a symbiotic mutually beneficial relationship with "good" bacteria that lives on its surface feeding on products produced by vaginal skin cells. They good bacteria then turn to create a physical and chemical barrier to bad bacteria which includes HIV viruses, researchers said. 

The recent study describes the new method for studying the relationship between the skin cells and the "good" bacteria. 

"This model will provide the opportunity to study the way that these mixed species bacterial communities change the activity of vaginal applicants including over-the-counter products like douches and prescription medications and contraceptives. These types of studies are very difficult or even impossible to complete in women who are participating in clinical trials," said Richard Pyles at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in the press release.

The bacteria communities have never before seen successfully grown outside a human and the study is first to grow human vaginal skin cells in a dish. The growth has been engineered in such a way that supports colonization by the complex good and bad communities of bacteria collected from women during routine gynecological exams.

The development of the study has been published in the journal PLOS One.

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