Team Develops New Way to Fight HIV Transmission


Source: University of Waterloo

Summary: Researchers have developed a new tool, a vaginal implant, decreases the number of cells that the HIV virus can target in a woman’s genital tract to protect women from HIV infection.


HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infects the body by corrupting Tcells that are mobilized by the immune system when the virus enters a person’s body. When the T cells stay resting and do not attempt to fight the virus they are not infected and the HIV virus is not transmitted between people. When the T-cells stay resting, it’s referred to as being immune quiescent. Researchers from the University of Waterloo have developed a new tool, a vaginal implant, decreases the number of cells that the HIV virus can target in a woman’s genital tract to protect women from HIV infection. Unlike conventional methods of HIV prevention, such as condoms or anti-HIV drugs, the implant takes advantage of some people’s natural immunity to the virus. The study findings were published in the Journal of Controlled Release.

Tool to fight HIV

Scientists at the University of Waterloo have developed a new tool to protect women from HIV infection. Credit: University of Waterloo

The implant was inspired by previous research involving sex workers in Kenya who had sex with HIV positive clients but did not contract the virus. They later found the women possessed T-cells that were naturally immune quiescent. The implant is composed of a hollow tube and two pliable arms to hold it in place. It contains hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) which is disseminated slowly through the porous material of the tube and absorbed by the walls of the vaginal tract. The implants were tested in an animal model and the team observed a significant reduction in T-cell activation, meaning that the vaginal tract was demonstrating an immune quiescent state.

Prof. Emmanuel Ho said, “We know that some drugs taken orally never make it to the vaginal tract, so this implant could provide a more reliable way to encourage T cells not to respond to infection and therefore more reliably and cheaply prevent transmission.”


More Information: Yufei Chen et al, “Implant delivering hydroxychloroquine attenuates vaginal T lymphocyte activation and inflammation”, Journal of Controlled Release (2018). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jconrel.2018.03.010


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