Australian Olympic team will be protected from the Zika virus when traveling to 2016 Brazil Olympics since the Australian Olympic Committee will provide the team special condoms with VivaGel, team officials said in a statement today.
Starpharma Holdings and condom maker Ansell are producing the Dual Protect condoms that use VivaGel, a lubricant that contains an active ingredient SPL7013, which is an antiviral agent that attaches to viruses so they cannot attach to human cells. Essentially, the condoms would protect from viruses that cause sexually transmitted infections.
The condoms with VivaGel, which are currently sold only in Australia, will be given to the athletes aiming to decrease the chances of them getting infected with the Zika virus.
The condoms are meant to protect the health and wellbeing of the Australian team. Chief of the Mission of the 2016 Australian Olympic Team Kitty Chiller said in a statement that they need to find a solution for a very serious problem that is affecting Rio since the team is their main priority.
The new creation has been tried in laboratory settings, and it has proved to inactivate HIV, genital herpes and the human papillomavirus, according to Starpharma. In new investigations, the company also said that, in laboratory studies, it can provide protection against the Zika virus.
VivaGel has not proved to be effective in real-world settings, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt Medical Center, said. The Australian Olympic Committee will provide 350,000 male and 100,000 female antiviral condoms.
The Zika virus
The Zika virus is an epidemic in Central and Latin America, and it has been declared as a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.
In some cases, it may not cause dangerous problems or symptoms. However, the virus has been linked to a birth defect that causes babies to be born with unusually small heads.
It usually is spread through mosquitoes, but the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that it can be also spread through sexual contact. Both agencies recommend using condoms after being in places where the virus is spreading. Anti-viral treatments have not been advised to use.
Since the virus can last longer in semen than blood, a man carrying the virus can pass it along to his partners, even if he does not present any symptoms.
According to Slate, condoms are already effective to prevent sexually transmitted infections. This means there is no need for an anti-viral condom. Regular condoms already rap semen and prevent the virus from spreading.
“There is no evidence that addition of an anti-infective alters the effectiveness of condoms, whether it improves them or makes them less effective,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Benjamin N. Haynes said in an email to Slate.