AIDS Prevention Possible With Lime Juice?

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Biopsies of the animals showed no adverse effects from the concentrated juice, Short says.

However, experts elsewhere are not convinced.

Results from two separate human clinical trials presented at the Microbicides 2006 world conference in Cape Town last month indicated that concentrated lime juice could harm sensitive vaginal tissue, making a woman potentially more susceptible to HIV.

"As part of their folk tradition, thousands of women around the globe are already using lime and lemon juice for [HIV] protection, without knowing whether it might be beneficial or harmful," said Anke Hemmerling, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

In her study, Hemmerling tested 25 women for two weeks with tampons soaked in a 20 percent concentration of lime juice.

The researchers saw no significant change in the women's levels of lactobacilli, the bacteria that help keep the vagina slightly acidic to check the growth of potentially harmful organisms.

The women also showed no signs of severe irritation.

But the strength of the juice was not effective against HIV.

The latest thinking, Hemmerling says, is that concentrations up to 25 percent that are safe for vaginal use are likely too weak to destroy HIV.

"At this point in time, the use of lime as a vaginal douche in order to control HIV transmission is not advisable," Hemmerling added.

"It should not be part of current health policies and should not be advertised implying such use to be beneficial."

Effectiveness Versus Safety

In a separate study, Christine Mauck of the Arlington, Virginia-based Contraceptive Research and Development Program, tested 25, 50, and 100 percent concentrations of lime juice on 48 women. The juice was administered through a douche and a soaked tampon.

Results indicated that while the 25 percent concentration caused little damage to the vagina, the 50 and 100 percent concentrations damaged cells in the vaginal lining.

Some women also opted out of the tests due to discomfort from the higher concentrations.

Taken together, the two clinical trials seem to suggest that while safe concentrations of lime juice may not be effective, effective concentrations may not be safe.

"It's a sad story for prostitutes who can't get their partners to use condoms," Mauck added.

"They use lime juice, but it doesn't offer protection. We have nothing else to offer them right now."

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