PITTSBURGH, Dec. 9 – The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health has received a five-year, $7.2 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop microbicides against HIV transmission. The grant will allow Pitt to test two microbicide formulations – a film and ring that release the active ingredient over time.
Microbicides are substances designed to prevent or reduce the sexual transmission of HIV when applied topically to the vagina or rectum. Currently, there are several microbicides being tested, but none have been proven effective. Testing of many products will likely be required before finding one that is safe and effective against HIV, as well as easy to use and acceptable to both sexual partners.
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic remains uncontrolled in many regions in the world,” said principal investigator Phalguni Gupta, Ph.D., professor and assistant chairman, Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “In developing countries, HIV is most often spread through unprotected heterosexual intercourse, creating a great need for new ways to prevent transmission beyond the condom whose use is often at the discretion of men.”
The project at Pitt will involve cell culture and animal studies of two microbicides, RC101 and CSIC, that target different stages of virus growth. RC101 inhibits entry of the virus into a cell, while CSIC works to inactivate an enzyme that the virus needs to grow after it has entered a cell. Study investigators will evaluate these microbicides in two formulations – a film delivery system inserted into the vagina and used for up to seven days, and a ring delivery system inserted on a monthly or periodic basis. They also plan to test the microbicides in the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases and bacterial vaginosis, a common vaginal infection.