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Carrageenan Inhibits Human Papillomavirus

In vitro study shows the gelling agent inhibits both genital wart and cancer-causing viruses

FRIDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Carrageenan, the inexpensive gelling agent made from red algae and used in products ranging from baby formulas to sexual lubricants, is a potent inhibitor of a broad range of human papillomaviruses in laboratory culture, according to a study published in the July issue of PLoS Pathogens.

Christopher B. Buck, M.D., of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues used a newly developed cell culture-based human papillomavirus (HPV) inhibition test to investigate compounds that were structurally similar to a key cell surface component involved in HPV infection.

The researchers singled out carrageenan as the most promising compound after finding 50 percent inhibitory doses in the low ng/mL range. They determined that carrageenan prevented HPV infection by both the genital wart and cancer-causing types by attaching to HPV and preventing its entry into cells.

"Since high-quality carrageenan preparations appear to have a good safety profile for long-term vaginal use, carrageenan might be useful as an inexpensive topical microbicide for blocking the sexual transmission of HPV," the authors state. "Clinical trials are needed to determine whether carrageenan-based products are effective as topical microbicides against genital HPVs."

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