Surrogate post-coital testing for contraceptive efficacy against human sperm activity in the ovine vaginal model†
High unintended pregnancy rates are partially due to lack of effective nonhormonal contraceptives; development of safe, effective topical vaginal methods will address this need. Preclinical product safety and efficacy assessment requires in vivo testing in appropriate models. The sheep is a good model for the evaluation of vaginally delivered products due to its close similarities to humans. The study objective was to develop an ovine model for efficacy testing of female nonhormonal contraceptives that target human sperm. Fresh human semen was pooled from male volunteers. Nonpregnant female Merino sheep were treated with control or vaginal contraceptive product (IgG antibody with action against sperm or nonoxynol-9 [N9]). Pooled semen was added to the sheep vagina and mixed with product and vaginal secretions. Microscopic assessment of samples was performed immediately and progressive motility (PM) of sperm was compared between treatments. Cytokines CXCL8 and IL1B were assessed in vaginal fluid after instillation of human semen. No adverse reactions or elevations in proinflammatory cytokines occurred in response to human semen. N9 produced signs of acute cellular toxicity while there were no cellular changes after IgG treatment. N9 and IgG had dose-related effects with the highest dose achieving complete sperm immobilization (no sperm with PM). Surrogate post-coital testing of vaginally administered contraceptives that target human semen was developed in an ovine model established for vaginal product preclinical testing. This expanded model can aid the development of much needed nonhormonal topical vaginal contraceptives, providing opportunities for rapid iterative drug development prior to costly, time-intensive human testing.