Skip to content

    HPV/Genital Warts Health Center

    Font Size

    'Thickener' May Prevent HPV Infection

    Carrageenan -- Used in Sexual Lubricants -- May Fight Virus That Causes Cervical Cancer
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    July 14, 2006 -- A common ingredient used to thicken everything from baby food to sexual lubricants may help fight the virus that causes cervical cancerand genital warts.

    Researchers found the thickener, carrageenan prevented human papilloma viruses (HPV) from attaching to cells in laboratory tests. Certain strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

    If more studies confirm these results, researchers say carrageenan-based products may be developed and used to prevent HPV infection at low cost.

    The FDA has recently approved a cervical cancer vaccine that targets HPV for the prevention of cervical cancer in women at risk. But researchers say it doesn't protect against every strain of HPV and costs about $360, which could be too expensive for use in developing countries.

    Thickener Stops HPV

    In the study, published in PLoS Pathogens, researchers found that carrageenan, which is derived from red algae, fit the bill. Researchers say it was an ideal candidate for testing because the thickener is already commonly used in sexual lubricants and other topically applied products.

    Normally HPV attacks cells by attaching to proteins on the cell surface and then chemically getting access to the cells. But researchers found carrageenan prevented infection by stopping the virus from attaching to the cells.

    "We were floored by how much better it worked than anything else we have tested. It's effective at 100-fold lower concentration than the next best inhibitor we've found," says researcher John Schiller, senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, in a news release.

    "Our results do not prove that carrageenans will work as a practical HPV topical microbicide," cautions Schiller. "The potent inhibition of infection of cells in dishes, coupled with the fact that carrageenan-based products are already in use for genital application, are promising, but we will need to do a well-controlled clinical trial before use of any of these products as an HPV inhibitor could be recommended."

    Today on WebMD

    HPV Vaccine Future
    STD Overview
    STD Facts Quiz
    Syringes and graph illustration
    Sex Drive Killers
    Genital Herpes Risks Quiz
    Young couple holding hands
    Herpes Vaccine Study
    Condom Quiz
    HPV Symptoms Tests
    Get The STD Picture
    cancer cell

    WebMD Special Sections