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Topical Microbicides

Topical microbicides are preparations (for example, gels, creams, or foams) that are applied either vaginally and/or rectally to prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Ideally, microbicides would be unnoticeable, fast-acting against HIV and a broad range of other sexually transmitted pathogens, inexpensive, safe for use at least one to two times daily, and easy to store.

A topical microbicide may prevent HIV transmission by

  • Killing or inactivating pathogens
  • Strengthening the body's normal defenses
  • Blocking attachment of HIV to susceptible cells
  • Preventing infection from spreading to other cells

The main goal of the NIAID HIV Topical Microbicide Reseach Program is to support research that leads to identifying and developing safe, effective, and acceptable topical microbicides. NIAID topical microbicide research is outlined in the NIAID Topical Microbicide Strategic Plan, and includes basic research through preclinical development and clinical trials. Currently, the priority areas include

  • Identifying the early steps in HIV infection and transmission at mucosal surfaces in cervicovaginal and rectal tissues
  • Discovery and development of safe and effective formulations and delivery methods
  • Development and utilization of suitable animal models for safety and efficacy testing
  • Research into the acceptance and use of microbicides by conducting prevention and behavioral studies
  • Exploratory Phase I clinical trials to assess the relevance of and validate new approaches for determining the safety and efficacy of candidate microbicides
  • Iterative preclinical to clinical translational research to evaluate and optimize topical microbicide formulations and strategies
  • Clinical trials to determine safety, efficacy/effectiveness, and acceptability of candidate topical microbicides

Additional Information on Microbicides 

Last Updated June 18, 2010

Last Reviewed March 26, 2010