Experiments in female monkeys have for the first time shown that when used in combination, vaginal gels known as microbicides can protect against an HIV-like virus. The research, funded largely by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggests that similar combination microbicides could potentially provide a safe, effective and practical way to prevent HIV transmission to women, according to study investigators.
The study, published online October 30 in the journal Nature, represents the first successful testing of combination microbicides in a primate model.
Women make up nearly half of all people living with HIV worldwide, and a vast majority of new cases of HIV infection in women result from heterosexual intercourse. “This study demonstrates that combination microbicides are feasible,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “We need to build on these promising animal studies and move toward establishing the safety and effectiveness of combination microbicides in women.”
Vaginal microbicides include creams, gels or other substances that could be applied topically to prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. At least five different candidate microbicides currently are being evaluated in large clinical trials, but no microbicide has yet been approved for human use.
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