A gel containing antibodies to HIV was shown to protect female monkeys against infection in an experiment that suggests such a product might work as an alternative or an addition to condom use by humans, researchers reported Monday. John Moore of Cornell University, Ronald Veazey of Tulane University, and colleagues in the United Kingdom made a gel that contained a high concentration of one of the antibodies the human body naturally makes to attack HIV. They tested the microbicide on 12 female monkeys who were exposed vaginally to an extremely virulent hybrid version of HIV and the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Only three of the monkeys became infected, while 12 of 13 animals in the control group exposed to the virus were infected.
"These observations support the concept that viral entry inhibitors can help prevent the sexual transmission of HIV to humans," the researchers wrote in the February 10 edition of the journal Nature Medicine. Additional tests are planned to determine whether the antibody compound is effective in preventing human infection through both vaginal and anal exposure to HIV, but the researchers caution that any resulting product is likely still years away from the consumer market.