Indian-American researchers have created a hydrogel-based condom that contains plant-based antioxidants, which kill the virus in case of condom breakage. Dubbed as the "Super Condom," scientists believe it could help in the global war against the deadly virus.
Mahua Choudhury, an assistant professor at the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy in Texas A&M University Health Science Center, said the "Super Condom" has the potential to stop the epidemic. The research team also claimed they created a new material for the widely used contraceptive.
"Super condom could help fight against HIV infection and may as well prevent unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases and if we succeed, it will revolutionize the HIV prevention initiative," said Choudhury who led the study.
Hydrogel is already being utilized in wound dressings, soft contact lenses, diapers and other drug delivery mechanisms. Choudhury's team combined the hydrogel template with quercetin, a plant-based antioxidant that prevents HIV from multiplying. The "Super Condom" gives the user added protection by releasing HIV-killing quercetin in in the event of a condom breakage.
The "Super Condom" is not all about protection. Quercetin's stimulating properties can help men in maintaining sufficient erection during intercourse. This increases the pleasurable sensation and therefore improves sexual experience.
The team is currently awaiting a patent application approval. Choudhury's team is targeting the launch of several tests in the next six months. The research team will analyze how fast quercetin can be discharged during the testing process. The team will also test if pressure is needed to activate the HIV-killing antioxidant or it can be released automatically. Upon approval and availability in the market, the "Super Condom" could become a front-runner in the battle against the HIV virus.
Prior to her PhD in the U.S., Choudhury took up Molecular Biology, Biophysics and Genetics in India. Choudhury is a recipient of the "Grand Challenge in Global Health" grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The 54 winners of the grant were challenged to come up with an inexpensive, latex-free condom that will help in the battle against the HIV epidemic.
"If you can make it really affordable, and really appealing, it could be a life-saving thing," said Choudhury. HIV broke out in 1981 and has killed almost 39 million people.
Photo: Fiona Henderson | Flickr