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UPitt researchers guide international effort to find HIV/AIDS microbicides


The Microbicide Trials Network, an international project to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, recentlyreported on the development of a microbicide that blocks transmission of the virus to womenwith a 30 percent rate of effectiveness.

Now, the University of Pittsburgh-coordinated effort, which is being funded from 2006 to 2013 with $14 million a year from the National Institutes of Health, will launch a multi-year study this summer to test the drug tenofovir on more than 4,000 women at research sites throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

“The study for us was very exciting because it was the first time that we’ve identified any way of at least partially blocking transmission of HIV to women,” says Sharon L. Hillier, director of the Microbicide Trials Network and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Pitt’s School of Medicine. “Several microbicides have been tried. This is the first that showed any level of effectiveness.”

A key issue, Hillier says, is whether higher levels of potency will increase tenofovir’s effectiveness. The new study will test the microbicide in oral tablets and vaginal gels and evaluate both modes for regular, preventive administration.

With associated laboratory work, Hillier manages about 40 scientists and staff in Pittsburgh, for an overall NIH commitment to the region of about $100 million, and also coordinates work for the project that involves several other universities and about 20 research sites in the U.S., Africa, and India, which receive separate NIH funding.

While tenofovir’s effects are attracting heightened interest, the network is evaluating a wide range of drugs through at least 10 major studies that test the safety and potency of these microbicides in preventing HIV/AIDS.

Source: Microbicide Trials Network, Sharon Hillier
Writer: Joseph Plummer
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