A new research study says marijuana-like substances may help in treating and suppressing HIV.

The paper, published in the Public Library of Science Journal, aimed to explore the effects of cannabinoids--substances close in chemical composition to marijuana--on the treatment of HIV-1, finding that treatment efficiently blocked productive infection in both memory and naive cell subsets following infection with cell-associated X4-tropic HIV-1.

In the discussion portion of the paper, the authors write that cannabinoid activation blocks both cell-free and cell-associated viral infection, reducing the frequency of infected cells by 30-60%. Further, the study reports--in technical terms--that this specific use identified inhibition that helped to block cellular communication between HIV-1 producing cells. however it was concluded that this inhibitory cross-talk is sufficient to decrease viral infection.

The study, named Cannabinoid Receptor 2-Mediated Attenuation of CXCR4-Tropic HIV Infection in Primary CD4+ T Cells, concludes further study of cannabinoids and other neuroendocrine regulators that selectively modulate immune function may result in the discovery of new anti-viral drugs that can also mitigate AIDS-associated symptoms.

The peer-reviewed study was penned by Cristina Maria Costantino, Achla Gupta, Alice W. Yewdall, Benjamin M. Dale, Lakshmi A. Devi and Benjamin K. Chen, and funded by the United States National Institutes of Health and other funding given to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The authors noted that, though marijuana is legal in 14 states for the treatment of HIV-AIDS, a study of its effect on the health of the virus had yet to be formally completed.