A molecule related to flavor enhancers found in soy sauce is being studied as a possible treatment for HIV patients, virologists at the University of Missouri recently announced.

The molecule, EFdA, was first discovered in 2001 by a Japanese soy sauce company looking to enhance the flavor of its product.

“Patients who are treated for HIV infections with Tenofovir eventually develop resistance to the drugs that prevent an effective or successful defense of the virus,” Stefan Sarafianos, associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, said in a statement on the school's website. “EFdA, the molecule we are studying, is less likely to cause resistance in HIV patients because it is more readily activated and is less quickly broken down by the body as similar existing drugs.”

Sarafianos and his colleagues are testing compounds for usefulness as potential HIV-halting drugs with pharmaceutical company Merck.

“The structure of this compound is very important because it is a lock-and-key kind of mechanism that can be recognized by the target,” Sarafianos said. “Not only does EFdA work on resistant HIV, it works better on HIV that has not become Tenofovir resistant.”