Early research into a compound found in soybeans suggests that it may be used as an agent to fight HIV and that it would be less susceptible to drug resistance, according to scientists at George Mason University. Called genistein, the compound is what’s known as a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, blocking communication between sensors on the surface of a cell and its insides. These sensors are located on the surface of cells; they deliver information about the surrounding environment and also communicate with other cells. HIV hijacks these sensors, causing them to instruct the cell to change its structure so that HIV can invade.

Genistein inhibits the signal that triggers this change in cellular structure, thus preventing HIV from entering the cell. Because the compound does not directly affect HIV, it is less likely to lead to drug resistance. Researchers anticipate that it may one day be used as an adjunct to antiretroviral therapy. Also, because genistein is plant based, it may prove less toxic.

The researchers caution that there is no evidence to suggest that consuming soy products will fight HIV. They are currently studying the levels of genistein required to inhibit the virus.

To read a release on the study, click here.