Experimental Microbicide Might Prevent Spread of HIV, Herpes, Pilot Study Shows
An experimental microbicide gel for women might help prevent the spread of HIV and the herpes simplex virus, according to pilot study data presented on Feb. 24 at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, the New York Times reports (Bakalar, New York Times, 3/8). Microbicides include a range of products -- such as gels, films, sponges and other products -- that could help prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/3). Dr. Marla Keller and colleagues from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City treated 10 HIV-positive women with the topical vaginal gel, called PRO 2000, which is manufactured by Indevus Pharmaceuticals, and applied a placebo gel to another 10 HIV-positive women. One hour later, the researchers collected and examined secretions from both groups for evidence of viral infection. The researchers found that PRO 2000 significantly reduced viral levels in HIV-positive women without causing an inflammatory response, according to the Times. A 14-day study to test whether repeated applications of the microbicide cause "unacceptable side effects" currently is under way, according to the Times. In addition, researchers are planning a larger study of the microbicide that will include 3,000 women at nine sites.
Dr. Betsy Herold, a senior author of the study, said that researchers are "very interested in assuring that whatever drug makes it to market will be safe." She referred to the circumstances surrounding the use of the spermicide nonoxynol-9, which initially was thought to protect against HIV transmission but might actually increase the risk of transmission, according to the Times (New York Times, 3/8). According to data presented in January 2003, nonoxynol-9 can harm the cell lining of the vagina and cervix, possibly increasing the risk of STD transmission in women who use it (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/24/04).