FOCUS-GESUNDHEIT Editor-in-Chief Jochen Niehaus
US researchers discovered a new drug against HPV infections. By chance, it is already present in several lubricating creams.
Researchers at the American cancer institute NCI tested various molecules in the laboratory for their protective effect against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can trigger genital warts and cervical cancer. They found what they were looking for: Carrageenan, a chemical compound from the red algae, reliably blocked the virus's entry into the cell.
The scientists had chosen carrageenan for their experiments because the substance has chemical similarities with proteins on the cell surface to which HPV normally docks. If the doppelganger blocks the virus, infection is impossible. "The protective effect is 100 times stronger than with the second best blocker we found," reports John Schiller of the NCI.
Widely used thickener
In their search for products that contain carrageenan, the researchers were amazed at how widely the molecule was already being used. The algae substance serves as a thickener in many foods and creams, including lubricants. "This lucky coincidence that a recently discovered active ingredient against HPV infections is already contained in many over-the-counter creams for genital use is really fantastic," says John Schiller. However, it is still too early to generally recommend the algae slippery creams as cancer and wart protection during sex. First the laboratory results must be confirmed in clinical studies.
In the future, carrageenan-containing creams could complement the HPV vaccine recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In contrast to carrageenan, this does not protect against all papilloma virus variants.
The researchers published their discovery in the journal "PLoS Pathogens".