Cow mucus, the basis for a lubricant against HIV and herpes

Cow mucus, the basis for a lubricant against HIV and herpes

Cow mucus is the basis for an intimate lubricant that contains active ingredients against HIV and herpes simplex, two of the viruses that can be transmitted through sexual intercourse.

This was reported by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, where research was carried out on different types of cells, which showed an effectiveness of 70% against HIV and 80% against the herpes simplex virus.

These are very promising results for a new technology capable of preventing the transmission of these two sexual infections.

The study was carried out in the laboratory and on in vitro tissue samples, that is, it has not yet passed its experimentation phase with live animals or humans.

Why cow mucus?

According to a statement issued by the KTH institute itself, the lubricant is derived from mucin, an important component of mucus that is produced in the human body, but in this case a bovine type was chosen, which can be purified for later manufacture hydrogels (water-based gels).

Hongji Yan, a biomaterials researcher at KTH, said that the natural complexity of the mucin molecules is the reason why the synthetic gel is so effective against the aforementioned viruses, in addition to the fact that it does not carry the risk of side effects or the development of infections resistance that other antiviral components do have.

These benefits, said the scientist, would be difficult to achieve with a base made from a polymer made from scratch.

Mucin molecules have a function in the human body: to trap viral particles, either by sticking to them or by stopping them. These particles are then eliminated from the body through the mechanism of active turnover of mucus.

Yan stated that this synthetic gel replicates this self-healing mechanism, which is the key property of the material that makes mucus lubricity and infection prevention possible.

The care in your hands

For the researcher, this gel would help more people to take better control of their sexual health, since it would be capable of offering protection when the condom is not an option for various reasons.

The lubricant could even be used as a reinforcement of the protection when using a condom, in case it breaks or if people do not use it properly. In addition, the product could be used in the sexual relations of men with women and in those between couples of the same sex.

Yan added that the mucin in this synthetic gel also helps dampen the activation of immune system cells, which is important since activated immune cells encourage HIV to replicate in the body.

The research project is a collaboration of the laboratories of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the Technical University of Munich (Germany) and the Karolinska Institute (Sweden).

A new possibility in the face of a serious problem

According to data from the World Health Organization, more than a million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day around the world, and most of them have no symptoms.

In addition, AIDS, the disease caused by HIV, remains a pandemic, notes the KTH, noting that women and girls are twice as likely as men of the same age to contract HIV, according to the data from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS).

Remember that, at this time, the prevention of these STIs has two essential components: the condom and the diagnosis. If you want to take a free HIV test, come to AHF Latin America and the Caribbean. We have offices in 11 countries in the region.