New York: Scientists have developed a sensory tested drug delivery vehicle that can protect women against the spread of sexually transmitted infections during unprotected intercourse.
The semi-soft vaginal suppository is made from the seaweed derived food ingredient carrageenan and loaded with the antiviral drug Tenofovir.
"Microbicides - compounds that can be applied vaginally or rectally - offer a way to slow the spread of the (AIDS) virus," noted lead researcher Toral Zaveri, a post-doctoral scholar in food science at Pennsylvania State University's college of agricultural sciences.
Containing agents known to prevent transmission of HIV and other viruses, microbicides can be inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse as a gel, cream, foam, sponge, suppository or film.
"Carrageenan was selected over gelatin because it offers a number of important advantages. Because carrageenan is plant based, it is acceptable to vegetarians, there is no risk of animal-acquired infections and it avoids religious objections," Zaveri explained.
Also, it is more stable than gelatin at higher temperatures common in tropical regions of the world.
As part of the research, Zaveri conducted extensive sensory perception testing to assess the acceptability of the suppositories among women.
Women participating in the study were presented with suppositories - without the drug - in a variety of sizes, shapes and textures.
They indicated their preferences and rated the suppositories according to the ease of insertion.
"Understanding women's perception of the suppository and the reasons behind their choices is a critical step in the development of the suppository as a vaginal drug delivery system," Zaveri said.