Experimental contraceptive could give women the power to prevent pregnancy and STIs

November 30, 2018

Nongnuj TanphaichitrWhile condoms are the gold standard for preventing pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), there is a need around the world for solutions that can be used independently by women. New research led by Dr. Nongnuj Tanphaichitr brings a potential solution closer to reality.

More than a decade ago, Dr. Tanphaichitr discovered a natural peptide called LL-37 that can kill sperm as well as microbes such as HIV. Her team’s new paper in Human Reproduction shows that shorter versions of LL-37, which would be cheaper to manufacture, are just as effective. Treatment with the shorter peptides completely eliminated the ability of mouse sperm to fertilize eggs. The peptides also killed the bacteria that cause gonorrhea, which are increasingly resistant to antibiotics. They had no effect on female reproductive tissues and minimal effects on resident bacteria, lactobacilli, which maintain vaginal health.

Her team is now looking at ways to deliver the peptide using nanoparticles.

“While condoms are the gold standard for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, we also need solutions that women can use independently,” said Dr. Nongnuj Tamphaichitr, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “Our research could provide this.”

Authors: Kiattiburut W, Zhi R, Lee SG, Foo AC, Hickling DR, Keillor JW, Goto NK, Li W, Conlan W, Angel JB, Wang G, Tanphaichitr N.

Funding: Dr. Tanphaichitr’s research is possible because of generous support from the community for research at The Ottawa Hospital. This study was also funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the National Institutes of Health.

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