Self-lubricating condoms may be the answer in helping prevent sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies, researchers have found.
In a step away from the traditional water- or oil-based condoms currently on the market, a team of scientists from Boston University has created a condom that is self-lubricating, becoming slippery when it comes into contact with moisture -- for example, bodily fluids.
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The team assessed the performance of the condoms when faced with friction and then surveyed 33 people who felt the condoms to get their opinions on whether they would use them.
Their study found that the majority of people surveyed -- 73% -- not only preferred the feel of the condoms to those currently available but also said it would increase their condom use.
The study size was small and the new condoms have yet to be tested during sex, but researchers hope to start a clinical trial soon.
For some, without enough lubrication, sex can be painful and uncomfortable and condoms may break or slip. The team, which was backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says the self-lubricating coating "shows potential to be an effective strategy for decreasing friction-associated pain, increasing user satisfaction and increasing condom use."
Pain and reduced sensation are common reasons why people don't use condoms, according to previous research in the US.
The study, published Wednesday, showed that the coating kept the condom slippery longer than regular lubricants, which can wear off quickly.
"The coating does not affect the strength of the latex, and the coating provides consistently low friction even when subjected to large volumes of water or 1000 cycles of articulation (thrusting motions)," it said.
The research, which was led by Mark Grinstaff, shows that the new latex retains its lubrication because its coating is made from hydrophilic polymers -- molecules that attract water.
Olwen Williams, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, told CNN: "We welcome any developments that allow people to enjoy sex more safely and condoms remain the main tool in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections."
Last year, nearly 2.3 million sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in the US. Rates of infections such as gonorrhea and syphilis are also rising in countries such as Australia, which saw a 63% rise in gonorrhea diagnoses in just five years, between 2012 and 2016.
If used correctly, condoms act as a barrier to protect users from STIs and are also 98% effective in preventing pregnancy.
The Boston University team has already filed a patent for the self-lubricating condoms, in the hope that they will be made available to the public after further trials.