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Despite the myriad of oral contraceptives available for women, no such form of birth control exists for men.

However, that might be about to change as a group of researchers from the American Chemical Society (ACS) have found that a particular plant extract could be the key to curbing male fertility.

After conducting a study on rats, a report published in the ACS’ Journal of Medicinal Chemistry shows the contraceptive benefits of ouabain, a compound traditionally used by African hunters as poison on their arrows.

Ouabain is produced naturally in the body at a low level which scientists believe can help maintain blood pressure levels; it is occasionally prescribed to treat patients who have suffered from a heart attack.

According to the report, ouabain disturbs the movement of sodium and calcium ions and binds to a protein that is critical in fertility.

Previous research has shown that ouabain can reduce fertility in men, but experts have warned that if taken alone at a high dosage it could cause heart damage and therefore could not be a viable contraceptive on its own.

This prompted the team of scientists to design ouabain analogs that posed less of a threat to the heart and focused only on binding to a particular protein found in sperm.

They subsequently managed to develop a successful and safe contraceptive method using the plant-extract through a series of tests conducted on rats.

Although there is ongoing research into male contraceptive pills, it isn’t available yet.

However, a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that a contraceptive injection could be 96 per cent effective in curbing male fertility, though side effects were common.

The Independent UK