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Vaginal gel may provide a new approach to HIV prevention

Research with female monkeys at the Tulane National Primate Research Center has for the first time shown that three different anti-viral agents in a vaginal gel protect the animals against an HIV-like virus. The research suggests that a microbicide using compounds that inhibit the processes by which HIV attaches to and enters target cells could potentially provide a safe, effective and practical way to prevent HIV transmission in women, according to study investigators. The study, published online October 30 in the journal Nature was funded principally by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health.

Additionally, in a first-of-its-kind joint announcement, two of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies, Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) today announced that they have signed separate license agreements with the International Partnership for Microbicides to develop two of the compounds evaluated in the study as potential vaginal microbicides to protect women from HIV. Under the agreements, Merck and BMS each will grant the non-profit group a royalty-free license to develop, manufacture and distribute their compounds for use as microbicides in resource-poor countries. Announced on the eve of the TIME Global Health Summit, this agreement marks the first time any pharmaceutical company has licensed an anti-HIV compound for development as a microbicide when the class of drugs is so early in development.

Women make up nearly half of all people living with HIV worldwide, and 80 percent of new cases of HIV infection in women result from heterosexual intercourse. A vaginal gel containing microbicides could be applied topically to reduce the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Ronald Veazey, chair of the Division of Comparative Pathology at the Tulane National Primate Research Center, lead author of the paper, conducted the research with simian-human
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Source:Tulane University


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