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Hum Reprod. 2001 Jun;16(6):1151-4.

Distribution of a spermicide containing Nonoxynol-9 in the vaginal canal and the upper female reproductive tract.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Topical, intravaginal microbicides and spermicides are greatly needed to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and/or unwanted pregnancies. The development of such compounds is a high research priority. The presumed method of action of existing, or novel, microbicides/spermicides is to provide a chemical barrier to the vaginal epithelium preventing exposure to micro-organisms. Other intravaginal products are used to treat vaginal bacteria of fungal infections. Little is known, however, about the actual or optimal initial distribution and subsequent spread of medications placed in the vagina. We describe a sensitive new technique to quantify the spread of a gel placed in the vagina using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Five millilitres of an over-the-counter spermicide containing Nonoxynol-9 was mixed with Gadolinium. MRI was used to quantify spread of the mixture 10 min after insertion with a standard applicator. We demonstrated contiguous spread of gel throughout the vagina. The coverage of material was thicker in the upper vagina than in the lower vagina. We also demonstrated, for the first time, that spermicidal compounds may migrate from the vaginal canal into the endocervix within 10 min of insertion. This finding suggests that topical microbicides/spermicides may act both in the vaginal canal and in the upper female genital tract.

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