Tenofovir gel provides high level of protection against HIV in rectal tissue

Published: February 28, 2011

BOSTON, Feb. 28, 2011 – A gel developed to protect against HIV during vaginal sex produced a strong antiviral effect when used in the rectum, according to an early-phase study presented today at the 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). The results, based on rectal tissue biopsies sampled from HIV-negative men and women who used the product daily for one week, provide the first-ever evidence that tenofovir gel could help reduce the risk of HIV from anal sex, even though the vaginal gel formulation may not be optimal for rectal use.

Tenofovir gel was not especially well-liked by a majority of men and women in the study, yet most reported they would be likely to use the gel if it became available in the future as a method for preventing HIV. Although the study found use of the gel generally safe, side effects were problematic to a few study participants. In hopes of making tenofovir gel more acceptable to for rectal use, researchers have since modified the gel and are now testing it in another study.

"We are very encouraged about these findings that indicate applying tenofovir gel topically to the rectum could be a promising approach to HIV prevention," said Peter Anton, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Center for Prevention Research at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who led the study with Ian McGowan, M.D., Ph.D., co-principal investigator of the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) and professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

"These are early results, but help set the stage for current and future trials of rectal microbicides and the development of a rectal-specific formulation of tenofovir gel," added Dr. McGowan, who is leading the second study of the new gel formulation.

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