Researchers have tested a new medical device that protects female monkeys from an AIDS-like virus, and it could turn out to also protect humans.
It is a vaginal ring containing an anti-retroviral drug that protects 100 percent of female monkeys from becoming infected with a non-human primate version of HIV known as simian immunodeficiency virus. The developers believe it could help women in areas of the world where HIV is prevalent. Sixty percent of Africa's HIV/AIDS sufferers are women.
The main ingredient in the device is tenofovir, a drug taken daily by 3.5 million people worldwide infected with the AIDS virus. Tenofovir in pill form has been shown to be effective at limiting transmission of the AIDS virus. But developers say it can be hard to remember to take daily doses of the medication.
Although the vaginal ring also contains powdered tenofovir, the drug's effectiveness as a topical agent has not been studied in humans. Researchers say the device is made of a special polymer or plastic material that swells once inserted into the vaginal canal, releasing high doses of the anti-retroviral agent for up to 30 days.
Human clinical trials of the protective vaginal ring are set to begin in November at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, which will evaluate the device's safety and effectiveness in a group of 60 women over a two week period.
Patrick Kiser, a visiting professor at Northwestern's school of biomedical engineering, says it took 10 years to develop the device, which can protect against multiple exposures to HIV for an extended period of time. Kiser described the work in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.