Los Angeles Times Profiles Microbicide BufferGel
The Los Angeles Times yesterday profiled BufferGel, a microbicide under development at Johns Hopkins University that researchers hope will be effective at preventing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and as a contraceptive. According to JHU biophysicist Richard Cone, who helped develop the product, the vagina's natural pH levels are acidic enough to kill sperm and "all sorts of germs." However, contact with semen, which is slightly alkaline, neutralizes vaginal pH, thereby allowing sperm to fertilize an egg and enabling microbes to infect cells. BufferGel, which is based on a "common pharmaceutical compound" used to thicken ointments, preserves the acidity of the vagina, thus "killing off" sperm cells and the viruses and bacteria that lead to AIDS, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, syphilis, human papillomavirus and trichomoniasis. NIH is currently conducting a clinical trial with 975 women to test the contraceptive benefits of BufferGel in conjunction with a diaphragm, and an upcoming study of 8,500 women in the United States and abroad will evaluate whether the microbicide can prevent HIV transmission. The Times reports that if the gel is found to be effective, it could be on the U.S. market within two years (Marsa, Los Angeles Times, 11/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.