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Scientists discover new STD drug delivery system

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

After STD Awareness Month in April, which was spent raising awareness of STDs and how people, young and old, should protect themselves by getting an STD test, it seems appropriate that now Yale researchers are reporting a possible new STD treatment.

The scientists may have found a different way of delivering antiviral drugs, which may one day develop a new kind of treatment for people suffering from various STDs.

The scientists involved in the study described it as a "breakthrough" and said the new finding involves small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules that silence genes.

"RNA interference is a promising approach for prevention and treatment of human disease," said lead author Kim Woodrow, Yale postdoctoral fellow at the university's School of Engineering & Applied Science. "We wanted to develop a new strategy of delivering siRNAs with FDA-approved material."

According to Woodrow, the siRNAs interfere and "knock out" the function of genes in higher organisms and in microbes, which may cause STDs. In terms of delivering the treatment, the researchers created a "time release" drug delivery system of siRNAs made of a biodegradable polymer known as PLGA.

While experimenting with female mice, it was found the siRNAs reached cells "below the surface of the mucosa and distributing throughout the vaginal, cervical and uterine regions."

But, and perhaps more importantly, the siRNAs remained in the tissues for at least a week and the knockdown of gene activity lasted up to 14 days.

"Before human clinical testing can begin, our next step in research will be to test this approach directly in disease models - for example in the HIV model mice that have an immune system genetically identical to humans," said senior author W. Mark Saltzman, the Goizueta Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering & Chemical Engineering.

The PLGA delivery system used by the researchers is already approved as safe and non-toxic by the FDA, which will quicken the path for this new finding to clinical trials to test its abilities against conditions such as HPV and HIV.

If successful, Woodrow said the treatment holds the promise for people to "self–apply antimicrobial treatments."

"It is safe and effective and much easier than getting an injection of vaccine," Woodrow said.

For people who have yet to get tested for an STD, news of this potential new treatment may help them start to look into getting a blood test in a lab to know their status.

While there is still no cure or vaccine for STDs, many health officials agree that one of the best ways for people to protect themselves is to get a lab test often. Early detection is currently the best defense against STDs mainly because it gives people access to treatments that can keep serious symptoms from various conditions at bay.

Despite an entire month dedicated to STD awareness and the availability of online STD tests for people who may feel too self-conscious to go to a doctor's office, it appears infection rates of STDs continue to rise.

Recently Utah County found that its rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea increased approximately 50 percent between 2003 and 2007, the Daily Herald reports. In that same time period, the county found rates of gonorrhea doubled from 412 cases to 821.

Sue Dyle, a physician's assistant with the Utah County Women's Center, told the news provider that the increase in STD rates may be attributed to a "lackadaisical attitude among teens toward sexually-transmitted diseases."

"There just really has been this drop in concern about STDs since HIV is not on everyone's front page anymore," Dyle said. "There's been this perception that condom use isn't as important."ADNFCR-2248-ID-19161394-ADNFCR

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