Isoosmolar enemas demonstrate preferential gastrointestinal distribution, safety, and acceptability compared with hyperosmolar and hypoosmolar enemas as a potential delivery vehicle for rectal microbicides

AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2013 Nov;29(11):1487-95. doi: 10.1089/aid.2013.0189. Epub 2013 Aug 24.


Rectally applied antiretroviral microbicides for preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) of HIV infection are currently in development. Since enemas (rectal douches) are commonly used by men who have sex with men prior to receptive anal intercourse, a microbicide enema could enhance PrEP adherence by fitting seamlessly within the usual sexual practices. We assessed the distribution, safety, and acceptability of three enema types-hyperosmolar (Fleet), hypoosmolar (distilled water), and isoosmolar (Normosol-R)-in a crossover design. Nine men received each enema type in random order. Enemas were radiolabeled [(99m)Tc-diethylene triamine pentaacetic acid (DTPA)] to assess enema distribution in the colon using single photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT) imaging. Plasma (99m)Tc-DTPA indicated mucosal permeability. Sigmoidoscopic colon tissue biopsies were taken to assess injury as well as tissue penetration of the (99m)Tc-DTPA. Acceptability was assessed after each product use and at the end of the study. SPECT/CT imaging showed that the isoosmolar enema had greater proximal colonic distribution (up to the splenic flexure) and greater luminal and colon tissue concentrations of (99m)Tc-DTPA when compared to the other enemas (p<0.01). Colon biopsies also showed that only the hyperosmolar enema caused sloughing of the colonic epithelium (p<0.05). In permeability testing, the hypoosmolar enema had higher plasma (99m)Tc-DTPA 24-h area under the concentration-time curve and peak concentration compared to the hyperosmolar and isoosmolar enemas, respectively. Acceptability was generally good with no clear preferences among the three enema types. The isoosmolar enema was superior or similar to the other enemas in all categories and is a good candidate for further development as a rectal microbicide vehicle.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Biopsy
  • Colon, Sigmoid / drug effects
  • Colon, Sigmoid / pathology
  • Enema / adverse effects*
  • Enema / methods*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Solutions / administration & dosage*
  • Solutions / chemistry*
  • Solutions / pharmacokinetics
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Solutions