Potential use of antimicrobial peptides as vaginal spermicides/microbicides

Nongnuj Tanphaichitr, Nopparat Srakaew, Rhea Alonzi, Wongsakorn Kiattiburut, Kessiri Kongmanas, Ruina Zhi, Weihua Li, Mark Baker, Guanshun Wang, Duane Hickling

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The concurrent increases in global population and sexually transmitted infection (STI) demand a search for agents with dual spermicidal and microbicidal properties for topical vaginal application. Previous attempts to develop the surfactant spermicide, nonoxynol-9 (N-9), into a vaginal microbicide were unsuccessful largely due to its inefficiency to kill microbes. Furthermore, N-9 causes damage to the vaginal epithelium, thus accelerating microbes to enter the women’s body. For this reason, antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), naturally secreted by all forms of life as part of innate immunity, deserve evaluation for their potential spermicidal effects. To date, twelve spermicidal AMPs have been described including LL-37, magainin 2 and nisin A. Human cathelicidin LL-37 is the most promising spermicidal AMP to be further developed for vaginal use for the following reasons. First, it is a human AMP naturally produced in the vagina after intercourse. Second, LL-37 exerts microbicidal effects to numerous microbes including those that cause STI. Third, its cytotoxicity is selective to sperm and not to the female reproductive tract. Furthermore, the spermicidal effects of LL-37 have been demonstrated in vivo in mice. Therefore, the availability of LL-37 as a vaginal spermicide/microbicide will empower women for self-protection against unwanted pregnancies and STI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 11 2016


  • Antimicrobial peptide
  • Cathelicidin
  • HCAP-18
  • LL-37
  • Sexually transmitted infection
  • Spermicidal antimicrobial peptide
  • Spermicide
  • Vaginal contraceptive
  • Vaginal microbicide
  • Vaginitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science

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