New Contraceptive in the Pipeline
May 5, 2011
Scientists at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales are developing a gel-based contraceptive that also will protect against STDs.
Speaking at the Australian Academy of Science's Shine Dome in Canberra this week, John Aitken, a reproductive researcher and professor at the university, said the gel could be applied to a small, pliable sponge inserted into the vagina up to 48 hours before sexual intercourse. When semen makes contact with the gel, the sperm are paralyzed and any STD-causing organisms are killed. The contraceptive would be marketed to females ages 15-25. "[They] are the ones who are more susceptible to sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancies," he said. The gel has yet to undergo animal and human trials.
Aitken noted that currently there are no "local compounds" that can be used as an STD preventive. Pregnancy-inhibiting spermicides are "crude," he said. "Women who use a lot of this stuff, especially commercial sex workers, are significantly more likely to get HIV than women who don't use it ... it just destroys everything around it," he added. "You want to be able to have intercourse in the safe knowledge you will neither get pregnant, nor will you catch some terrible microbe."
According to Aitken, there have been no groundbreaking developments in contraception since the birth control pill was introduced. "We need contraceptives that meet the demands of the 21st century and one of those demands is that there's now a much higher risk of contracting an [STD] than there was in the 1950s and '60s," he said. "Globally there is a pandemic in sexually transmitted disease so we need to develop new forms of contraception that take that into account."
Australian Associated Press
05.04.2011; Nicky Park
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