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Q: What are microbicides?

Dr. Donnica:
Microbicides are agents that inhibit the transmission of certain viruses. The microbicides of greatest interest now are vaginal agents to inhibit the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.  These agents are desperately needed in underdeveloped nations where rates of HIV infection among women are rapidly increasing, a high percentage of intercourse is non-consensual, and condom use is not controlled by women or the "just say no" philosophy. 

Nearly 60 microbicides are in development, with various mechanisms of action, but only 7 are in the final stages of clinical research. Some are contraceptive, and some are not.  The challenge is to develop agents that can be self-administered vaginally and suppress HIV, yet which do not affect the vaginal mucosa. This was a problem with the agent nonoxynol-9; in women at high risk for HIV infection, it was shown to cause vaginal ulcers, which actually increased HIV transmission.

Created: 4/3/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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