Prevent the Spread of HIV Infection: Nanofiber-Based Technology Could Help

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is spread through direct contact with blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluids, fecal matter, breast milk, and other heavy fluids that our bodies produce. This virus attacks the T lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that is a part of your immune system and prevents infections and diseases. Without treatment to prevent the virus from replicating itself, these T Cells eventually will become depleted. It is estimated that more than one million people over the age of thirteen are living with HIV infection. Of this number, roughly two hundred thousand infected people are unaware that they are HIV positive. The current therapies that stop the virus from replicating and spreading through the bloodstream will also stop the negative effects of HIV. However, they do not completely rid the body of the virus and do not prevent the possibility of further infection from occurring. Fortunately, there are new treatments in development that could actually prevent the spread of HIV infection around the world.

Of these new forms of prevention being developed, a group of researchers based out of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy are testing a novel nanofiber-based technology. The aim is to prevent the transmission of HIV through vaginal mucus membranes. This vaginal-based drug is applied to the area prior to sexual contact, and is designed to take effect upon the presence of semen enzymes. The drug inactivates and kills any present HIV cells in the enzymes—prior to exposure and penetration of vaginal fluids. This is the main cause of heterosexual HIV transmission, HIV infected semen enzymes penetrating into the vaginal fluids and infecting the host, and this technology has been shown to effectively prevent the spread of HIV infection in this matter. They are working on using this technology in male-to-male sexual contact as well, and preliminary research looks positive.