Evaluation of the virus permeability of a new condom for women

Sex Transm Dis. 1990 Apr-Jun;17(2):110-2. doi: 10.1097/00007435-199004000-00014.


The authors tested a polyurethane women's condom for permeability to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) using an artificial intercourse model. They did not detect viral leakage in three trials for each virus. Use of this device, which can be controlled by the woman, may reduce HIV and CMV infection.

PIP: In San Francisco, California, researchers used an artificial intercourse model to test a polyurethane woman's condom (WPC-33 under development by the Wisconsin Pharmaceutical Company) for permeability to HIV and cytomegalovirus (CMV). The disposable device is loose-fitting and has flexible rings at both ends. The researchers placed a virus suspension inside a condom and then placed inside it a second condom containing tissue culture medium to test for permeability. A 35-ml plastic syringe case served as an artificial penis. It was inserted into the inner condom, which was inside an artificial foam vagina, and then plunged 50 times to simulate trauma associated with sexual intercourse. Aliquots of the fluids in the outer and inner condoms were grown in culture. CMV was grown in human embryonic lung fibroblasts for four weeks. Virus-positive cultures were identified by their cytopathogenic effect. HIV was grown for eight days in normal human lymphocytes and assayed with an antigen capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In three trials using CMV, all inner condom fluids were positive; all outer condom fluids were negative. The detection limit of the assay was 0.2 mcl of inoculum. The same results were found in three trials with HIV. The detection limit of the ELISA for HIV was 0.67 mcl of inoculum. Thus, a female condom may present an alternative means of controlling sexually transmitted diseases and conception. Previous studies have suggested that the female condom may leak less than a male condom. However, this device has not yet proven effective in vivo and it was not tested for efficacy as a contraceptive. Additional studies will be required to prove the utility of this barrier in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Contraceptive Devices, Female / standards*
  • Contraceptive Devices, Male / standards*
  • Cytomegalovirus*
  • Female
  • HIV*
  • Humans
  • Permeability
  • Polyurethanes


  • Polyurethanes