New Tampon Cuts Toxic Shock Risk
Fiber Finish Reduces Production of Disease-Causing Toxin, Researchers Say
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 18, 2007 (Chicago) -- Researchers have developed a novel tampon that
appears to cut the risk of menstrual toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
The key to its success: a fiber finish called glycerol monolaurate (GML)
that reduces the production of the toxin that causes menstrual TSS, says
researcher Pat Schlievert, MD, a professor of microbiology at the University of
Minnesota at Minneapolis.
His team’s study of more than 200 women also showed that the new
coating promotes vaginal health, facilitating an environment with a protective
bacterial balance, he tells WebMD.
Manufacturer Johnson & Johnson hopes to have it on the market in
the near future, Schlievert says.
The study was presented at a meeting of the American Society for
Cases of Menstrual TSS on the Rise
Menstrual TSS grabbed headlines in the late 1970s and 1980s after the deaths
of several young women who were using a brand of superabsorbent tampon that was
later removed from the market.
At the time, there were about 10 cases per 100,000 per year, Schlievert
says. While no longer as common, menstrual TSS is still a problem, with about
two to three cases per 100,000 women per year, he says. The incidence has risen
slightly over the past seven years, he adds.
The condition is brought on by the release of toxins from an overgrowth of a
bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus, which is commonly found in many
women, especially during menstruation. The toxins enter the blood and can cause
a sharp drop in blood pressure that deprives vital organs of oxygen and can
lead to death.
Several years ago, lab studies showed that GML, a widely used emulsifier in
cosmetics and food, inhibited the production of those toxins by
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in the test tube.
The idea behind the GML-coated tampons is to add a finish that prevents the
toxin from ever being made, Schlievert says.
Coated Tampons Cut Toxin Production
The new study involved 225 menstruating women who used their own tampon
followed by a test tampon that may or may not have had a GML coating. Neither
the researchers nor the participants knew which test tampon the women
When the tampons were removed and the code was broken, results showed that
the GML-coated tampons contained significantly fewer toxins than the non-coated
test tampons or the women’s own tampons.
Scott M. Hammer, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases at
Columbia University in New York City and chairman of the committee that chose
which studies to highlight at the meeting, says the idea behind the new tampon
is simple, but ingenious.
“What they’ve done is use bioengineering to interact with the molecular
mechanism of a disease-causing bacterium, thereby cutting down on the risk of a
potentially fatal infectious disease,” he tells WebMD.
Johnson & Johnson funded the study.