Microbicides can be used to protect against HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases, either on their own or with the added protection of a condom. New research published by BioMed Central's open access journalAIDS Research and Therapy has investigated the use of lubricants, originally designed for vaginal application, and has developed and tested new, rectal specific, formulations.
Unprotected sex is one of the major ways that HIV spreads through the population. However most research has focused on the production of vaginal microbicides which, due to differences in pH, native bacterial populations (microflora), and thickness of the epithelium, may not be safe as rectal microbicides. Researchers at the Magee Woman's Research Institute, University of Pittsburgh, have shown that some mineral oil and silicone-based lubricants, but not the water-based ones they tested, significantly weakened the integrity of condoms making them more likely to break.With this in mind Prof. Rohan's group has formulated four different lubricants, both water and lipid based, and in different formats, as a fluid or gel, which are currently being tested in clinical trials.
This, to me, represents a huge step from going to lab tested drugs to those applicable in the real world. Though research was initially done on vaginal microbicides, this neglects to offer protection to one of the largest HIV risk groups, men who have sex with men (MSM), as well as women who engage in anal sex. Worse, other factors, such as condom use, have to be considered, since a microbicide that prevents HIV but also breaks condoms may not be the most practical course of action. Thus, work on making new microbicides that would be effective in the field is a promising next step from the starting point of the original vaginal microbicide formulation.