Researchers have developed a dissolvable tampon-like product that can carry substantial loads of medicine and could offer fast-acting HIV protection.
Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have developed the material which is capable of carrying substantial loads of medicine, dissolving and releasing the drugs once its comes into contact with moisture.
The study builds on research conducted at UW's Department of Bioengineering in 2012.
Dr Kim Woodrow and her team were experimenting with electrospinning, a process where a charged fluid containing polymers and antiretroviral drugs is projected from a syringe and through an electric field.
The electric field causes the jet of liquid to break into tiny fibres, each measuring anywhere between 100 to several thousand nanometres, 'Gizmag' reported.
These then come to land on a collecting plate and combine to form a stretchy fabric capable of blocking sperm and, as the researchers discovered, carrying and releasing contraceptives and antivirals.
Because certain elements of the material can be controlled, such as the solubility, strength and size of the fibres, the researchers said that it may prove more versatile than other anti-HIV technologies currently in development.
One sample dissolved within minutes, an application that could protect against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Another sample dissolved over several days, which could prove useful in sustained delivery of drugs, such as birth-control pills and anti-HIV medicines.
The team said that the electrospun material can carry a large load of maraviroc, an antiretroviral drug used in the treatment of HIV which has minimal side effects.
The research is published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.