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UCSF study will test new vaginal microbicide for herpes and HIV

A team of researchers at UCSF is seeking young women to participate in the first U.S. study of the safety of a new a vaginal gel designed to prevent herpes and HIV infection.

If it is effective and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the gel would be an important weapon in the fight against HIV because it would allow women to protect themselves from infection rather than relying on their partners to use condoms.

"The significance of the gel is that it potentially gives the power back to the woman to protect herself against infection," said Anna-Barbara Moscicki, MD, professor of pediatrics at UCSF and lead investigator for the study.

The gel is not a contraceptive, but a microbicide. Microbicidal gels or creams are inserted into the vagina solely to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. There are currently no such products on the market. Women who have herpes are at increased risk of contracting HIV, so diminishing the risk of getting herpes also diminishes the risk of HIV infection.

The generic name of the gel is "3 % w/w SPL7013" (brand name VivaGel). Following this safety trial, other trials will be conducted to determine its effectiveness at fighting off herpes and HIV infection. But Moscicki said that trials in animals have found the gel to be nearly 100 percent effective and have few side effects.

"There has been an important move supported by the National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization to support the development of vaginal microbicides," said Moscicki, who also is the director of Teen Clinics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at UCSF Children’s Hospital. "Herpes infection is the number one attributable cause of HIV infection in the United States and worldwide."

The gel is designed to prevent herpes and HIV infection through the use of a molecule called a dendrimer. Dendrimers have molecular structures that resemble the branches of a
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Source:University of California - San Francisco


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