SEATTLE (CBS Seattle) – Protection from the virus that causes AIDS could be as simple as using a tampon.

Bioengineers at the University of Washington say they have developed a faster way to deliver a topical drug that protects women from contracting the AIDS virus.

The method spins the drug into silk-like fibers that dissolve when exposed to moisture.

The dissolving fibers could be spun and placed within an applicator similar to those used to insert tampons.

This technique can create anti-viral drugs that are 10 time more concentrated than those found in current anti-HIV gels and creams under development.

“This could offer women a potentially more effective, discreet way to protect themselves from HIV infection by inserting the drug-loaded materials into the vagina before sex,” said Cameron Ball, a UW doctoral student in bioengineering and lead author of the report.

Drugs in film form take at least 15 minutes to fully dissolve in the body. The volume of gels must be large enough to deliver a full dose but small enough to prevent leakage. These factors can make anti-virals difficult for a woman to use before sex, researchers said.

“The effectiveness of an anti-HIV topical drug depends partially on high-enough dosages and quick release,” Ball said. “We have achieved higher drug loading in our material such that you wouldn’t need to insert a large amount of these fibers to deliver enough of the drug to be helpful.”

The researchers are focused on creating an insert that would be effective and comfortable.

The report is published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapies.

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