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US team tests anti-HIV gel

1st January 2007

20092006_hiv1.jpgScientists in the United States are working on an anti-viral vaginal gel which could protect women and their unborn babies against infection from HIV/AIDS.

Developed by a team at the University of Utah, the liquid turns into a gel-like coating when inserted into the vagina, earning it the nickname 'molecular condom'.

When exposed to semen, it liquifies again, releasing an anti-viral agent to attack the HIV virus.

However, the technology, featured in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, is still around five years away from being tested on real women.

The Utah project is part of a worldwide research effort to develop "microbicides" - drug-delivery systems such as gels, rings, sponges or creams to prevent infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The aim is to empower women to protect themselves, especially in societies where they lack the economic clout to require their partners to use condoms, or are made vulnerable through conflict situations, for example where rape is widespread.

The first of the new applications is likely to come to market within four years. Early forms of microbicide may need to be applied just before sex to remain effective, although it is hoped that longer-lasting versions will eventually be developed.

The Utah team said their 'hydrogel' was unlikely to cause discomfort, as it was specially designed not to dehydrate vaginal tissue or to be diluted by any other fluids.

Further research was now needed to test the gel's effectiveness in humans, they said.

 

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