Research Roundup: Male birth control one step closer to reality, three-in-one HIV drug launched, and powdered polio vaccine brings new hope
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The Population Council and its partners announced the launch of the first clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of a male contraceptive gel—an innovation that could advance contraception and bring more equality to the burden of family planning, which is largely borne by women. The gel, known as NES/T, is a novel, reversible contraceptive composed of a progestin hormone used for female contraception and testosterone. The gel is designed to be applied daily and absorbed through the skin on the upper arms and shoulders. The phase 2b trial, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, will test the product for pregnancy prevention among more than 400 couples. Should NES/T prove effective, it would be the first user-controlled method for contraception for men since the condom.
Last Monday, South African drug maker Aspen Pharmacare launched a triple-antiretroviral (ARV) combination tablet for the treatment of HIV in South Africa—a country which accounts for 19 percent of the global burden of people living with HIV and 15 percent of new infections. The new medicine, known as Emdolten, is taken once daily and contains dolutegravir, an antiretroviral medication that counters the drug resistance that often develops with older HIV treatments, along with lamivudine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate. In May, the South Africa Regulatory Authority and the European Medicines Agency issued a warning advising doctors not to prescribe dolutegravir to women seeking to becoming pregnant following cases of birth defects in a study; however, Aspen Pharmacare stated that using dolutegravir is safe for men, women not of child-bearing age, and child-bearing women using contraceptives, which account for approximately 70 percent of HIV patients.
Researchers have developed a way to freeze-dry an inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) so that it can be stored at elevated temperatures, up to 40°C, for four weeks and then dissolved for use without losing its potency—potentially offering a new tool to eradicate the disease. While existing oral vaccines have led to polio’s elimination in many countries, these oral vaccines contain a weakened live virus, which can cause paralysis in rare cases. Thus, there has been push to use IPVs, which contain dead strains of the virus. Although IPVs have already been introduced in many countries, their widespread use is inhibited by their sensitivity to temperatures above and below approximately 4°C (39.2°F).