Reigning in HIV/AIDS

Reining in HIV/AIDS

An estimated 12,000 people contract the AIDS virus each day, including a disproportionate number of women. Microbicides might help protect at-risk women by serving as "molecular condoms"--physical barriers or filters with HIV-neutralizing ingredients that slow viral passage from semen into body tissues.

"In many cases, women lack the control needed to protect themselves against the virus. Microbicide development is a response to the demonstrated need for new female-controlled methods for HIV prophylaxis."

David Katz

A team led by David Katz, a professor of biomedical engineering, has developed a computer tool that could improve the design of topical microbicides now under development. Using the tool, they showed that a thin, long-lasting coating of microbicide delivered to susceptible tissues can significantly reduce the spread of HIV. The findings, obtained with support from the National Institutes of Health, emphasize the importance of the "delivery vehicle," the polymer gels or creams carrying anti-HIV ingredients, in determining the success or failure of microbicidal agents.

The Duke researchers and their collaborators at the University of Utah, including Pratt alumnus Patrick Kiser, later reported the development of a promising drug carrier: a "smart" liquid that, when inserted vaginally, turns into a gel-like coating and then, when exposed to semen, returns to liquid form and releases an antiviral drug.