Certain Lubricants May Lead to Increased Risks of STI

1 Jun

I first saw this news in a blog post. Whoa! It went and blew away a lot of what I thought I knew. I mean, lube is supposed to mean safer sex, right? Less tearing, less pain, and the such. But after actually reading through the blog and then going on to the study abstract, things are sort of making sense.

Pamina M. Gorbach, Robert E Weiss, Robin Jeffries, Edward Fuchs, Marjan Hezerah, Stephen Brown, Alen Voskanian, Edward Robbie, Peter Anton, Ross D Cranston. “Rectal Lubricant Use and Risk for Rectal STI”

You can get the abstract of the study here

This study was conducted by researchers from the UCLA School of Public Health, the UCLA School of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Los Angeles AIDS Research Alliance, and the University of Pittsburgh. They conducted this study on volunteers in Los Angeles and Baltimore. The participants were given a survey to fill out about their sex lives and their hygiene (this includes whether or not they use lube during anal intercourse; the last time they used lube during anal intercourse; whether or not they have HIV; and their demographics). The participants were then tested for rectal STIs chlamydia and gonorrhea.

.The results of the study show that 8.3% of participants had rectal STIs. The 8.3% was made up from 11.3% of the participants who used lube and 4.5% of those who didn’t. The study also reported that out of the participants who were HIV positive, 57% reported that they used lube, and 43% reported they didn’t.

The researchers concluded that “finding suggest use of some rectal lubircant products may increase vulnerability to rectal STIs, highlighting a need for more research on types of rectal lubricant products, their use during [Receptive Anal Intercourse], and potential mechanisms for how rectal lube use may facilitate transmission of rectal STIs and HIV.”

There was also another study that looked into the different brands of lubricant that’s commonly used and their safety done by researchers at the Magee-Womens Research Institute, University of Pittsburgh, and the International Rectal Microbicide Advocates.

Julie Russo, Lisa C. Rohan, Bernard Moncla, Ratiya Pamela Na Ayudhya, Lin Wang, Marilyn Cost, Kara Pryke, Marc-Andre LeBlanc, Jim Pickett, and Charlene S. Dezzutti. “Safety and Anti-HIV Activity of Over-the-Counter Lubricant Gels”

You can also see that abstract here

The study tested the following lubes: Astroglide, Elbow Grease, ID Glide, KY Jelly, PRE, (<–water based lubes) and Wet Platinum (silicone based). They looked at the properties of these lubes as well as how the lubes affected epithelial cells. Out of these lubes, Wet Platinum was determined to have “no toxicity” and PRE did nothing to the cells. All the other water-based lubricants were hyperosmolar (they had a higher concentration of salt compared to the inside of a cell), thus the resulted in “epithelial stripping” where the cell tries to fix the imbalance and forces water out of itself to do it, resulting in the death of the cell. These lubes aren’t only harmful to the cells inside the rectum, but also to the colonies of ‘good’ bacteria that already reside inside the rectum.

Essentially the harmful lubes are stripping away the protective layer of epithelial tissue in the rectum.

Their conclusion: “Our data suggests that PRE and Wet Platinum were safest. The hyperosmolar nature of the other lubricant gels was associated with cellular toxicity and may lead to increased risk of HIV infection.”

It also should be noted though that they didn’t test these lubes on humans and Charelene Dezzutti says that “Conclusions cannot be made based on this study alone, though the results are compelling enough to wonder if these lubricants might have the same effect in people and thereby increase susceptibility to HIV.”

Science News also covered these studies as well as Charlie Glickman from Goodvibes.

Mr. Glickman makes some really good points in his post. I’m interested in seeing if more research is going to be done and also seeing the results of those studies because at the moment, it’s still really early in all this research. All they have found is a correlation, but correlation doesn’t automatically mean causation.

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