A gel that acts like a liquid condom to block sexually transmitted diseases has proven to inhibit HIV and herpes infection when used by women.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York say that the gel is the first to retain antiviral activity within the human vagina.

“There is an urgent need for the development of safe and effective vaginal microbicides,” says Mount Sinai researcher Marla Keller. “While condoms offer protection against sexually transmitted infections, their effectiveness is limited because they require partner initiation or consent.”

Called PRO 2000 and being developed by Indevus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of Lexington, Massachusetts, the gel is part of a class of products aimed at preventing sexually transmitted infections when applied topically.

Funded by the US National Institutes of Health, Mount Sinai researchers examined its antiviral activity with the help of 20 HIV-infected women.

Examining vaginal fluid before and one hour after administration of PRO 2000 or a placebo, the researchers found that the gel reduced HIV and herpes simplex virus infectivity by at least 1,000-fold while the placebo had little effect.

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