New Medical Device to Inhibit HIV Transmission in Women


Vaginal implants minimize the amount of target that virus can latch onto during sexual intercourse, providing better protection than anti-HIV drugs or condoms

Scientists from the University of Waterloo developed new medical device named as vaginal implant to protect women from HIV infection. New device is based on principle of HIV transmission mechanism, in which virus infiltrates a subject by disrupting vital T cells, which kick into gear when they catch wind of a foreign invader. If the T cells lay dormant and don’t take up the fight, then the virus is unable to infect them and is not transmitted. Researchers from University of Waterloo previously studied HIV infection among Kenyan sex workers. It was found that many female Kenyan sex workers did not get affected by the virus, despite having relations with HIV positive clients, owing to natural immune quiescence.

Currently, team developed vaginal implant, which comprise a hollow tube and a pair of pliable arms. The arms hold it in place while hydroxychloroquine, a malaria medication also shown to calm immune activation, is delivered and slowly absorbed by the walls of the vaginal tract. To test the efficiency of the implant, it was tested on animal models. It showed significant reduction in T cell activation. Armed with these positive early results, the researchers are now working to improve the approach and find out where it fits in among other HIV prevention measures.

Researchers explained that oral drugs are not able to reach vaginal tract due to certain factors. Medical implant could provide a more reliable way to encourage T cells not to respond to infection and therefore more reliably and cheaply prevent transmission. Furthermore, researchers are working on finding if this can be used as stand-alone option for preventing HIV transmission or if it might be best used in conjunction with other prevention strategies. The research was published in the Journal of Controlled in April 2018.