Topical microbicides for preventing sexually transmitted infections

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Background: This is a updated version of our Cochrane Review published in Issue 6, 2012. Sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) continue to rise worldwide, imposing an enormous morbidity and mortality burden. Effective prevention strategies, including microbicides, are needed to achieve the goals of the World Heath Organization (WHO) global strategy for the prevention and control of these infections. Objectives: To determine the effectiveness and safety of topical microbicides for preventing acquisition of STIs, including HIV. Search methods: We undertook a comprehensive search of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, Embase, LILACS, CLIB, Web of Science,, WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and reference lists of relevant articles up to August 2020. In addition, we contacted relevant organisations and experts. Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials of vaginal microbicides compared to placebo (except for nonoxynol-9 because it is covered in related Cochrane Reviews). Eligible participants were sexually-active non-pregnant, WSM and MSM, who had no laboratory confirmed STIs. Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently screened and selected studies, extracted data, and assessed risks of bias in duplicate, resolving differences by consensus. We conducted a fixed-effect meta-analysis, stratified by type of microbicide, and assessed the certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach. Main results: We included eight trials from the earlier version of the review and four new trials, i.e. a total of 12 trials with 32,464 participants (all WSM). We did not find any eligible study that enrolled MSM or reported fungal STI as an outcome. We have no study awaiting assessment. All 12 trials were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, with one having a study site in the USA, and another having a site in India. Vaginal microbicides tested were BufferGel and PRO 2000 (1 trial, 3101 women), Carraguard (1 trial, 6202 women), cellulose sulphate (2 trials, 3069 women), dapivirine (2 trials, 4588 women), PRO 2000 (1 trial, 9385 women), C31G (SAVVY) (2 trials, 4295 women), and tenofovir (3 trials, 4958 women). All microbicides were compared to placebo and all trials had low risk of bias. Dapivirine probably reduces the risk of acquiring HIV infection: risk ratio (RR) 0.71, (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.57 to 0.89, I2 = 0%, 2 trials, 4588 women; moderate-certainty evidence). The other microbicides may result in little to no difference in the risk of acquiring HIV (low-certainty evidence); including tenofovir (RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.68 to 1.02, cellulose sulphate (RR 1.20, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.95, BufferGel (RR 1.05, 95% CI 0.73 to 1.52), Carraguard (RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.11), PRO 2000 (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.77 to 1.14), and SAVVY (RR 1.38, 95% CI 0.79 to 2.41). Existing evidence suggests that cellulose sulphate (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.37 to 2.62, 1 trial, 1425 women), and PRO 2000 (RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.73 to 1.23) may result in little to no difference in the risk of getting herpes simplex virus type 2 infection (low-certainty evidence). Two studies reported data on tenofovir's effect on this virus. One suggested that tenofovir may reduce the risk (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.82; 224 participants) while the other did not find evidence of an effect (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.03; 1003 participants). We have not reported the pooled result because of substantial heterogeneity of effect between the two studies (l2 = 85%). The evidence also suggests that dapivirine (RR 1.70, 95% CI 0.63 to 4.59), tenofovir (RR 1.27, 95% CI 0.58 to 2.78), cellulose sulphate (RR 0.69, 95% CI 0.26 to 1.81), and (Carraguard (RR 1.07, 95% CI 0.75 to 1.52) may have little or no effect on the risk of acquiring syphilis (low-certainty evidence). In addition, dapivirine (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.07), tenofovir (RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.13), cellulose sulphate (RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.49 to 0.99), BufferGel (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.65 to 1.45), Carraguard (RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.12), and PRO 2000 (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.22) may result in little to no difference in the risk of acquiring chlamydia infection (low-certainty evidence). The evidence also suggests that current topical microbicides may not have an effect on the risk of acquiring gonorrhoea, condyloma acuminatum, trichomoniasis, or human papillomavirus infection (low-certainty evidence). Microbicide use in the 12 trials, compared to placebo, did not lead to any difference in adverse event rates. No study reported on acceptability of the intervention. Authors' conclusions: Current evidence shows that vaginal dapivirine microbicide probably reduces HIV acquisition in women who have sex with men. Other types of vaginal microbicides have not shown evidence of an effect on acquisition of STIs, including HIV. Further research should continue on the development and testing of new microbicides.




Obiero, J., Ogongo, P., Mwethera, P. G., & Wiysonge, C. S. (2021, March 13). Topical microbicides for preventing sexually transmitted infections. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

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