Updated 07:08 AM EST, Tue, Jan 26, 2021

HIV Cure Breakthrough: New Dissolvable 'Tampon' Delivers Anti-HIV Drug to Women

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Protecting woman from HIV could get a new look in the form of a tampon-like product scientists are working on. Researchers at the University of Washington have released information on the anti-HIV medication that would make the product work.

A powerful microbicide is the active ingredient in the new technology which would use microfibers to release a dissolvable gel just before having sex. The nanotechnology used in the products has already been OK'd by the FDA, according to reports. The idea behind the gel is that it's fast-dissolving, so that when it's used, it will already be able to fight any HIV infection during the course of sex, scientists said. 

The product is nowhere near completion, and reports said that it could take five years until the new high-tech tampons could make it to pharmacies. "There's a race between the anti-HIV microbicide to get to the tissue before the virus does. So the more quickly it dissolves, the better," one of the bioengineers behind the product, Cameron Ball, said.

"Oral pills are used in the U.S. for people who are considered at risk for HIV infection," the University of Washington wrote. The gels and other anti-HIV products being developed for women are said to take too long to work, and don't always protect to the level that this new microbicide-embedded tampon would. "Drugs in film form take at least 15 minutes to fully dissolve in the body," which is the reason the new product with the tampon applicator would be a much needed product for women around the world. "The volume of gels must be large enough to deliver a full dose but small enough to prevent leakage,"--a common problem with what's available now.

The method for the HIV drug delivery can be absorbed in as little as 6 minutes, the researchers said. The active ingredient being used to fight HIV is a drug called maraviroc. Other drug agents are used as well to make the material become water soluble so that it is soaked up into the skin more quickly. The developers of the new medicine used a process called electrospinning to get it to its current form of delivery.

Scientists working on the tampon, which also could take the form of a ring, took their first steps in making the material by dissolving a polymer that was combined with maraviroc. What was left over was a syrup-like substance, that gets charged with electricity from a high-voltage generator that gets passed through a syringe. The charge gives the substance a long stringy formation on the surface. The spinning technique, leaves pieces of microfiber infused with the medicine on a surface that's electrically grounded. It takes about five minutes to spin a piece of fiber that's as big as the size of a palm. 

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