Related story in
Research magazine, May 1999
Products Block Viruses, Bacteria
By Marcia Wood
November 22, 1999
Surgical gloves, condoms or other products made from the natural rubber
latex of a southwestern desert shrub called guayule are an effective barrier
against disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
That's according to preliminary tests with the high-quality, hypoallergenic
latex made from guayule (pronounced why-YOU-lee). The research was done by
Katrina Cornish of USDA's
Agricultural Research Service in Albany,
Calif., and C. David Lytle, recently retired from the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The tests provide new evidence that medical, home and industrial products
made from guayule latex may offer a safe, practical alternative for the
estimated 20 million Americans allergic to latex products made from the most
common source, the Brazilian rubber tree.
Prototype patient-examination gloves and condoms made of guayule latex
passed standard virus-permeability tests, according to the scientists. Those
tests determined that a test virus, especially chosen for its small size, could
not slip through the guayule latex. Known as phi X174, the virus is
smaller than bacteria and is the same size, or smaller than, human pathogenic
viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B and herpes simplex.
The prototype gloves and condoms used for the tests were made of latex from
Arizona-grown guayule. They were the same thickness as commercially produced
gloves and condoms made of natural latex from the Brazilian rubber tree. The
findings will appear in the December 5 issue of the Journal of
Biomedical Materials Research.
In 1994, Cornish's team was the first to show that guayule latex is free of
the allergens that can cause severe reactions such as anaphylactic shock or
Scientific contact: Katrina Cornish,
Crop Improvement and
Utilization Research Unit, ARS Western
Regional Research Center, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, CA 94710; phone (510)
559-5950, fax (510) 559-5777, firstname.lastname@example.org.