, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 194-200,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 21 May 2011

Topical microbicides to prevent the transmission of HIV: formulation gaps and challenges


The efforts of the topical microbicide field to identify a safe and effective topical microbicide were realized in July of 2010 with the reporting of the results of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa 004 trial. In this trial, a 1% tenofovir gel was found to reduce women’s risk for HIV acquisition by 39% compared to placebo. To understand the impact of this trial on future microbicide development, we must view it from the historical perspective of previous phases 2 and 3 clinical trials with detergents and sulfated polyanions. This knowledge and emerging information must then be parlayed into the next steps needed to create a safe, effective, and acceptable topical microbicide. This review will look at the lessons learned from preclinical and clinical development of topical microbicides, focusing on two significant future challenges: (1) topical microbicide formulation safety and (2) the critical role that adherence to product use has in determining safety and efficacy in clinical trials and ultimately commercial viability of the licensed product. In addition to framing these issues within our current understanding of formulation and prevention of HIV acquisition, recent advances in our understanding of the mechanism of HIV transmission and how it informs on future formulation strategies will be briefly discussed.