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article imageSeaweed suppository delivers HIV drugs

By Tim Sandle     Sep 7, 2014 in Health
Scientists have devised a new method of tackling HIV and AIDS transmission. It is a vaginally-inserted suppository which contains the antiretroviral Tenofovir.
In addition to HIV, the suppository drug delivery platform is designed to prevent an array of sexually transmitted diseases from being spread as a result of unprotected heterosexual intercourse. The research has been published in the journal PLoS One ("User Preferences in a Carrageenan-Based Vaginal Drug Delivery System").
The suppository is manufactured from an edible seaweed extract with multiple food industry applications called carrageenan. Carrageenans are a family of linear sulphated polysaccharides that are extracted from red edible seaweeds. They are widely used in the food industry, for their gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties.
The carrageenan takes the place of gelatin (which is the more traditional material used to produce semi-soft suppositories). This change was made because carrageenan presents no risk of 'animal-acquired infections'. In addition, carrageenan is also approved by most drug agencies, which means that time is saved in terms of seeking clinical approval.
Tenofovir - the drug delivered by this suppository - sits within the nRTI (nucleotide analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitor) class of drugs which work by blocking the viral mechanism that takes place in people with HIV and also hepatitis B.
Although condoms remain an effective means of reducing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, control over their use rests with the male. The suppository gives a degree of control back to the female. So, in theory, a drug-dispersing suppository can protect against transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections during heterosexual intercourse with a partner whose infection status may or may not be known to the woman.
The suppository was developed by Penn State University's College of Agricultural Science. A U.S. National Institutes of Health grant through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases supported this work.
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