A new tampon-like device could someday deliver anti-HIV medication to women just moments before vaginal intercourse.
The device, constructed by a team of bioengineers at the University of Washington, looks like a tampon and can be inserted into the vagina using fingers or an applicator, and is made dissolvable fibers and the drug maraviroc. The fibers dissolve almost immediately after contacting moisture and deliver a high dose of the drug which is approved to help healthy people prevent HIV infection.
The team’s study was first published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapyand was reported earlier by Catherine Pearson at The Huffington Post: "We envision a product that could dissolve, pretty much instantaneously, into a gel and then spread around the vagina during sex," Cameron Ball, lead author on the paper and a doctoral student in bioengineering with the University of Washington, told Pearson. "We want something that dissolves quickly so that people can say, 'Hey, I wasn't planning on it, but I'm going to have sex in five minutes so I need to use this product, and I want it to be completely dissolved before that." (The new "tampons" are not intended to be used for feminine hygiene purposes.)
The device, which Ball told HuffPo estimates will be in drug stores in about 10 years, must still go through clinical trials and needs approval from the FDA.
There are kinks that must be worked out, such as preventing leakage and improving the adherence of the drug to the vaginal wall, but the device (and similar delivery systems for the vagina and rectum) opens a new door for women who have sex with (potentially) HIV positive partners prevent infection. In addition the “tampon” has potential use for preventing other STIs and even pregnancy.