Canadian researchers have designed a vaginal implant to protect women against HIV infection.
Resembling an IUD, researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have designed an implant to protect women from being infected with the AIDS virus. The results of their research appear in the Journal of Controlled Release.
Science has already shown that HIV, during sexual intercourse, infects the body by triggering an inflammatory reaction and pushing vaginal T lymphocytes, cells of the immune system, to fight the virus. However, when these cells do not activate and do not attack the virus, the person is not infected and does not transmit HIV to another person. It is said that the T cells are immunized. The researchers observed this case in Kenyan prostitutes who had sex with clients who were HIV-positive but had not contracted the disease: their lymphocytes were naturally immunized.
Canadian scientists have drawn inspiration from these cases and sought to chemically induce this immunity. They then designed a vaginal implant consisting of a hollow tube and two foldable arms to keep it in place. The latter slowly releases hydroxychloroquine, which is then absorbed by the walls of the vagina. This molecule can attenuate the activation and inflammation of vaginal T lymphocytes. This device has been successfully tested on an animal model.
“We know that some oral medications never reach the vaginal tract, so this implant may provide a more reliable way to encourage T cells to not contract the infection and thus prevent transmission more reliably and less costly,” Emmanuel Ho, one of the main authors of the study, said in a statement. “By delivering the drug exactly where it is needed, we hoped to increase the chances of inducing an immune quiescence,” he added.
Future research will focus on whether this device is self-sufficient or should be used in conjunction with other prevention strategies.