While spermicide isn't a completely safe birth control method when used alone, a new study by North Carolina State University researchers might change that in the future. Researchers have created a new 'all-in-one' contraceptive gel that contains spermicidal, anti-viral, and libido-enhancing agents, per a press release.
The gel, when tested in a rat model, boosted male libido and prevented pregnancy in 100% of cases.
The paper was recently published in the journal Bioactive Materials.
The in vitro lab tests
The researchers used three pharmacological agents in the new formulation: contraceptive gossypol, the antiviral tenofovir, and nitroglycerin to stimulate blood flow to the genitals.
The gel was first tested in vitro lab tests to determine its spermicidal and antiviral efficacy. Toxicity to vaginal epithelial cells was also taken into account.
It was seen that a sample of the gel containing 10 micrograms of gossypol per milliliter killed 100 percent of pig sperm within 30 seconds. Even with lower concentrations of gossypol, all of the sperm were eradicated within 180 seconds.
Further experiments showed that the gel also had the potential of reducing transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. When tested against a lentivirus, of which HIV is one type, the gel had an inhibitory effect.
Tested on a rat model
In order to test its contraceptive effect, the researchers divided 18 female rats into three even groups and applied the gel to the vaginas of one group. The second group was given a commercially available gel containing the spermicide nonoxynol9. The third group didn't receive any contraceptives.
After mating, the females in the trifunctional gel group had no pregnancies. The nonoxynol9 group had one accident and the control group had six.
In order to test the gel's effect on libido and erectile function, the gel was applied to the penises of the male rats. Those who had the gel on mated more frequently and were quicker to achieve erections.
Moreover, the gel did all that without not damaging the epithelial vaginal cells.
"The trifunctional contraceptive gel we created yielded higher contraceptive success rates than those on the market," said Ke Cheng, the corresponding author of the paper, "and has great potential for improving the safety and quality of sexual intercourse.
"Our hope is that this trifunctional contraceptive gel could further enhance the safety and quality of sexual intercourse."