New antiviral agents are being developed by scientists and HIV experts from the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID). The antiviral properties of potential microbicides could work in a number of ways. They could kill or otherwise immobilize the virus, create a barrier to block infection, or prevent the infection from taking hold after it has entered the body. An effective microbicide would combine these mechanisms.
A large-scale trial is planned to evaluate the effectiveness of two of the six vaginal microbicides that are now in the final stages of clinical development. Updates on recent international microbicide research and development, including information on the first Phase III trials, will be released shortly.
Microbicides are likely to be of particular benefit to women who are increasingly bearing the brunt of the HIV epidemic and now account for over 50 per cent of people newly infected with HIV. Microbicides could potentially control the risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.