Male birth control pill made from poisonous plant extract: Could this be the answer?

Male birth control pills
Birth control pills for representation purposes only Pixabay

Male birth control pill has long been overdue but a recent research might have just finally found a new lead to solve this dilemma. Scientists have discovered a plant extract that could potentially stop the movement of sperms.

According to the study of the American Chemical Society, the poisonous plant extract called ouabain has the potential to put an end to the ability of the sperm to swim, thereby cutting chances of meeting and fertilising the egg cells. The extract also works by disrupting the proteins in sperm which is important for male fertility.

Alson read: Sperm-cutting contraceptive gel to go on trial after 10 years of research

The researchers have found a way to manipulate ouabain so it would not be toxic, and the test in rats proved it. The extract has not been primed yet, but the study makes for a good indication that another contraceptive option for men may soon be available on top of vasectomy and condoms.

Ouabain was used by African warriors and hunters traditionally as a heart-stopping poison on their arrows. They can be formulated using two types of African plants. Mammals naturally produce it in their bodies in smaller amounts and are thought to help control blood pressure.

In modern-day medicine, a small dose of ouabain is used by doctors to treat heart attack patients. There were prior clinical studies that have shown the effectivity of the plant extract in preventing male fertility. Due to exposure to heart damage risks, this option failed to take off.

Meanwhile, the Population Council and the US National Institute of Health will be running a clinical trial on a male contraceptive gel for at least four months starting April. The gel--made of synthetic testosterone and a form of progestin--is thought to curb the production of testosterone which is necessary to produce the substantial amount of sperm. The stand-in testosterone prevents hormonal imbalance caused by progestin but does not produce sperm.

The test will involve 400 couples from the US, the UK, Sweden, Chile, Kenya and Italy.

This article was first published on January 22, 2018