Researchers say Photodisc Nanoparticles may be the solution to condoms’ 15% failure rate.
Condoms have a 15% failure rate, so a University of Manitoba team tried soaking condoms in a solution packed with “remarkable” microscopic silver nanoparticles, and the treated condoms appeared to kill all HIV and herpes in lab experiments, the scientists reported.
This could be a major breakthrough in the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide. The AIDS scourge is responsible for the deaths of more than half the world’s population and continues to spread at an alarming rate.
Yet how, exactly, the silver nanoparticles neutralize HIV and other viruses is still a bit of mystery. It could be the particles or the silver ions they release attach to the virus and prevent it from binding to cell “receptors” in the host’s body, said Dr. Yao, a medical microbiologist. Or they could actually change a key protein on the virus’s surface, and in that way stop it from sticking to host cells. Some condoms are now treated with an anti-microbial substance, called Nonoxynol-9. Recent studies, though, have shown that N-9 can trigger inflammation and ulceration in the genitals, actually making infection more likely.
The silver nanoparticles do not cause inflammation, said Dr. Yao. The nano-treated condoms have the added advantage of being quickly discarded, meaning the potentially toxic metal does not linger in users’ bodies, the study notes.
The research is still in its early stages, however, with animal studies on the nanoparticle contraceptives the next step, and possible entry on the market relatively far off.
Dr. Julio Montaner, one of Canada’s leading HIV scientists, said the idea is “intriguing” and welcome in the field.
Meanwhile, though, the most significant problem with condoms is not the 15% that fail to prevent STIs, but the fact many people simply neglect to use them.
“Unfortunately, at the most critical moment when these decisions are so important, people’s judgment may be impaired,” said Dr. Montaner. “At the end of the day, if they stay in the pocket, it’s not going to do the job.”
As well as providing extra protection to sexual partners when a condom fails, nanotechnology could have other benefits, too, said Dr. Yao. There are reports from developing countries such as India of children and others finding and touching used condoms, then contracting STIs, he said. Treated with nanosilver, the chances of discarded condoms infecting anyone might be greatly reduced.
Adopted from Nationalpost.com