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Sexually Transmitted Diseases:
Original Article

An In Vitro Evaluation of Condoms as Barriers to a Small Virus

LYTLE, DAVID C. PhD*; ROUTSON, LICIA B. BS; SEABORN, GERALD B. BS; DIXON, LURLENE G. BS; BUSHAR, HARRY F. PhD*; CYR, HOWARD W. PhD*

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Abstract

Background:: Because of the possible presence of small holes, the effectiveness of condoms as barriers to virus transmission is controversial.

Goals:: To determine the proportion of condoms that allow virus penetration and the amounts of virus that penetrate.

Study Design:: A sensitive, static test was used to evaluate different condom types as barriers to a small virus, including brands with or without lubrication and ones of different materials. The test included some physiologic‐based parameters and some parameters that exaggerated expected actual use conditions.

Results:: Under test conditions, 2.6% (12 of 470) of the latex condoms allowed some virus penetration; the median level of penetration was 7 × 10−4 ml. Lubricated condoms performed similarly to nonlubricated ones. Polyurethane condoms yielded results higher than but not statistically different from those for latex condoms.

Conclusions:: Few condoms allowed any virus penetration. The median amount of penetration for latex condoms when extrapolated to expected actual use conditions was 1 × 10−5 ml (volume of semen). Thus, even for the few condoms that do allow virus penetration, the typical level of exposure to semen would be several orders of magnitude lower than for no condom at all.

© Copyright 1997 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association

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