Scientists working jointly in the US and UK found a healthy compound in green tea called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, could protect the body's immune system from the HIV virus. Their work echoes similar findings from Japan a couple of years ago and offers some hope that consumers could one day use green tea, or extracts from it, alongside conventional medicines to combat HIV. Nearly 40m people live with HIV worldwide and there were 4.3m new infections during 2006, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation. The UK-US research team studied the effects of EGCG in laboratory test tubes. They found that EGCG stopped the HIV virus from binding to the body's immune cells by getting there first. "Our research shows that drinking green tea could reduce the risk of becoming infected by HIV, and could also slow down the spread of HIV," said professor Mike Williamson, one of the researchers and from the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Sheffield. But, he warned against relying on green tea for protection. "It is not a cure, and nor is it a safe way to avoid infection, however, we suggest that it should be used in combination with conventional medicines to improve quality of life for those infected." He told BeverageDaily.com more research was needed, and that he hoped this would eventually lead to clinical trials. "We tried to use the same concentrations [of EGCG] in experiments as you would get from drinking green tea. We are confident in the results were are seeing, but it is still not the same as putting it into humans." The team are now looking at how much green tea someone might have to drink for the EGCG to have an effect against HIV infection. Early indications suggested one or two cups per day may be enough to reduce risk by a factor of 10, Williamson said. Previous studies have already linked green tea to lower risk of a range of diseases, including cancer, and even with increased life expectancy. Research appears to have increasingly focused on EGCG, and this compound formed the foundation for the recent launch by Coca-Cola and Nestle of a sparkling green tea drink they claim can burn off calories.