'Zika-proof' condoms to be supplied to Australian Olympic team
Australian pharmaceutical company Starpharma Holdings said it is teaming up with world number two condom maker Ansell to supply Zika virus-proof condoms to the Australian Olympic team ahead of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games.
Starpharma said it is giving the Australian athletes Ansell "Dual Protect" condoms lubricated with Starpharma's VivaGel product, which it recently said showed near-total antiviral protection against Zika and other viruses in laboratory studies.
"Given sexual transmission of Zika virus is of increasing importance, the potent activity of Starpharma's VivaGel against Zika could prove very significant," said Starpharma Chief Executive Officer Jackie Fairley in a statement.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said the Starpharma condoms would be in addition to condoms already shipped to the Olympic village, which will also have free dispensing machines on every block supplying 350,000 male condoms and 100,000 female condoms to athletes.
The use of regular condoms had already been advised by the World Health Organisation as well national health ministries.
The AOC dismissed suggestions that athletes returning from Rio should undergo compulsory blood testing. People who follow the recommended precautions have a low risk of Zika and blanket testing "is not aligned with medical or scientific best practice," it said in a statement.
The Australian, Russian, American and British teams have all said they are monitoring the situation carefully, ahead of the August event.
South Korea is taking no chances with the health of its athletes, and has issued them with uniforms that have been infused with insect repellent to keep mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus at bay.
David Hughes, the Australian team's medical director, said: "All females of child-bearing age need to be aware of the specific risks of microcephaly in newborns, should the mother become infected during pregnancy.
"Following the recently updated guidelines, any team members who are pregnant at the time of the Games need to consider the risks very carefully before deciding whether to proceed with travel to Brazil."
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that there is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.