When preventing HIV, bacteria in the vagina matter | Science News

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When preventing HIV, bacteria in the vagina matter

Some microbes appear to break down drug in prophylactic gel, making it less effective

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2:52pm, June 1, 2017
applicator

DOSE OF GEL  Women use an applicator (shown) to self-administer a vaginal gel containing the HIV-prevention drug tenofovir. Vaginal bacteria affect how well the drug works, a new study suggests.

Bacteria in the vagina affect whether a drug stops an HIV infection or is itself stopped cold.

A vaginal gel containing tenofovir, an antiretroviral drug used to treat HIV infection, was three times as effective at preventing HIV in women who had healthy vaginal bacterial communities as it was in women with a less beneficial mix. The finding may help explain why the effectiveness of these gels has varied in trials, researchers report in the June 2 Science.

“The vaginal microbiota is yet another variable that we have to take into account when we are thinking about why one intervention does or doesn’t work,” says clinical scientist Khalil Ghanem of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who coauthored a commentary accompanying the study.

For women, one strategy to prevent HIV infection is to apply medicated vaginal gels before and after sex. But results have

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