'Zika-proof' condoms to protect our Oympians in Brazil

AUSTRALIAN Olympians competing in Rio will be supplied with 'super strength' condoms to guard against the Zika virus in Brazil. 

Starpharma says the 1500 plus condoms - to be distributed among the 137 athletes  - feature an anti-bacterial lubricant, making them more effective in stopping the spread of the virus.

The condoms are coasted with an antimicrobial agent called astodrimer sodium, which the company claims to have "potent antiviral" properties that work against Zika.

The Zika outbreak in Brazil has been linked to thousands of cases of microcephelacy in infants, prompting health authorities to call for the cancellation of the Rio Games for fear of a worldwide outbreak.

Brazil's response has been to stock vending machines in the Olympic Village with about 450,000 condoms, which will have to be enough to service some 10,500 athletes over three weeks.

In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus outbreak a global emergency.

It now affects more than 40 countries in total - 20 countries in the Americas, most of the Caribbean and several in the Pacific.

Although Zika is a mosquito-borne virus, it is now also confirmed to be a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported more than 425 travel-associated cases of Zika virus and there are now a growing number of people infected through sexual transmission by travelers returning from affected areas.

Many cases of sexual transmission of Zika virus have now been reported in other countries.

On its webiste, Starpharma says its  VivaGel® condom, marketed in Australia as the Dual Protect™ condom by Ansell, contains the antiviral VivaGel® active.

"The physical barrier of the condom provides primary protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), while VivaGel® is included in the condom lubricant as an antiviral agent that has been proven, in laboratory studies only, to inactivate HIV, HSV and HPV, which are viruses that cause STIs.

In view of the potent antiviral activity identified for the VivaGel® active against Zika virus, Starpharma is now investigating the inclusion of Zika in the list of viruses inactivated for the VivaGel® condom.

Starpharma CEO, Dr Jackie Fairley, commented, "There is currently no vaccine or therapy available for Zika virus. Given sexually transmitted infection is of increasing importance, the potent activity of the VivaGel® active against Zika virus could prove very important from a public health standpoint and a significant commercial opportunity."

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