Emory Report

January 31, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 19

Research looks for topical compound to fight STDs

By Eric Rangus

The medical school, the college, Yerkes and Georgia State University have joined forces on a project that focuses on the development of compounds to inactivate bacteria or viruses that cause sexually transmitted diseases.

The principal investigator is Richard Compans, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology. Emory microbiologist Igor Stojiljkovic is the co-principal investigator.

Although several microbicides have been tested in preclinical and clinical trials by other groups, none has been found to clearly prevent STDs. Because STD infections are transmitted at body surfaces, a topically applied preparation is considered the first line of defense in prevention. The research is examining new compounds not previously used as topical microbicides. A major challenge of the study is developing a nontoxic compound with little or no odor, taste or color.

The development of new chemicals with microbicidal activity is being carried out by Luigi Marzilli, professor of chemistry, and Dabney Dixon, a chemistry professor at Georgia State. Marzilli and Dixon have already developed compounds that possess potent and broad-spectrum antibacterial activity, with specific activity against herpes simplex viruses and HIV.

Stojiljkovic and microbiology and immunology Professor William Shafer are investigating the spectrum of activity of the compounds against clinical isolates of bacteria that commonly cause STDs. Microbiology and immunology Professor Amy Sears is investigating the use of compounds in preventing infection by herpes simplex viruses, and Compans' group will determine the virucidal activity of compounds against HIV. Kenneth Gould, research professor at Yerkes, is testing the efficacy and safety of the new compounds in primates.

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