Despite the large amount of oral contraceptives available to women, there is no such method of contraception for men.
However, that could be about to change when a group of researchers from the American Chemical Society (ACS) discovered that an extract from a particular plant could be the key to slowing male fertility.
After conducting a study in rats, a report published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry of the ACS shows the contraceptive benefits of ouabain, a compound traditionally used by African hunters as venom in their arrows.
Ouabain occurs naturally in the body at a low level that scientists believe can help maintain blood pressure levels; It is sometimes prescribed to treat patients who have suffered a heart attack.
According to the report, ouabain alters the movement of sodium and calcium ions and binds to a protein that is critical for fertility.
Previous research has shown that ouabain can reduce fertility in men, but experts have warned that taking it alone at high doses could cause heart damage and therefore could not be a viable contraceptive by itself.
This led the team of scientists to design analogues of ouabain that represented a minor threat to the heart and focused only on binding to a particular protein found in sperm.
Subsequently they managed to develop a successful and safe method of contraception using the plant extract through a series of tests performed on rats.
Although there is ongoing research on male contraceptive pills, it is not yet available.
However, a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolis discovered that a contraceptive injection could be effective at 96% to curb male fertility, although side effects were common.
The Independent UK