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Male contraceptive tested

9th October 2006
Trials of a new male contraceptive are being expanded in the United States after overwhelming initial interest from men eager to test the device, which is designed as an alternative to surgical vasectomy.

The Intra Vas Device or IVD, inserted via a small hole made in the scrotum, is a tiny silicone plug that blocks the tube sperm travel along in the body. In a pilot study involving 30 men the IVD was effective. Studies in monkeys also showed it was reversible. Extensive tests are now needed to check the same would be true in men using the device for years rather than months.

Traditional vasectomy -- where the two vas deferens tubes connecting the testicles and the penis are cut -- can be reversed in some men to restore fertility, but it is designed to be a permanent contraceptive.

A recent study of over 9,000 men in nine countries on four continents showed more than 60% of men in Spain, Germany, Mexico and Brazil expressed willingness to use a new male contraceptive.

Scientists have been searching for less invasive, localised, non-hormonal and reversible male contraceptives.

Hormonal methods, similar to the female pill or implants, have the advantage of being readily reversible, meaning a man could use it repeatedly at different times in his life, stopping to have children in between.

But these act on the whole body and can have unwanted side effects, like the female pill. Some men also say they do not find hormonal methods acceptable because they feel it somehow threatens their masculinity.

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