Historical development of vaginal microbicides to prevent sexual transmission of HIV in women: from past failures to future hopes.Drug Des Devel Ther. 2017; 11:1767-1787.DD
Infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains a global public health concern and is particularly serious in low- and middle-income countries. Widespread sexual violence and poverty, among other factors, increase the risk of infection in women, while currently available prevention methods are outside the control of most. This has driven the study of vaginal microbicides to prevent sexual transmission of HIV from men to women in recent decades. The first microbicides evaluated were formulated as gels for daily use and contained different substances such as surfactants, acidifiers and monoclonal antibodies, which failed to demonstrate efficacy in clinical trials. A gel containing the reverse transcriptase inhibitor tenofovir showed protective efficacy in women. However, the lack of adherence by patients led to the search for dosage forms capable of releasing the active principle for longer periods, and hence to the emergence of the vaginal ring loaded with dapivirine, which requires a monthly application and is able to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV. The future of vaginal microbicides will feature the use of alternative dosage forms, nanosystems for drug release and probiotics, which have emerged as potential microbicides but are still in the early stages of development. Protecting women with vaginal microbicide formulations would, therefore, be a valuable tool for avoiding sexual transmission of HIV.