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Innate Immunity in the Vagina (Part II): Anti-HIV Activity and Antiviral Content of Human Vaginal Secretions

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Abstract

Problem

Whether the concentrations of antiviral proteins, and anti-HIV activity, within human vaginal secretions change across the menstrual cycle is unknown.

Method of study

Using a menstrual cup, vaginal secretions from pre-menopausal women were recovered at the proliferative (d6–8), mid-cycle (d13–15), and secretory (d21–23) stages of the menstrual cycle. Antiviral protein concentration was determined by ELISA, and anti-HIV activity assessed using the TZM-bl reporter cell line.

Results

CCL20, RANTES, elafin, HBD2, SDF-1α, and IL-8 levels were detectable in the secretions. Vaginal secretions had anti-HIV activity against specific clade B strains of HIV, with significant inhibition of IIIB and increased infectivity of transmitted/founder CH077.t. No significant differences in either antiviral protein concentration or anti-HIV activity with respect to menstrual cycle stage were measured, but marked differences were observed in both parameters over the course of the cycle between different women and in consecutive cycles from the same woman.

Conclusion

The vagina contains a complement of antiviral proteins. The variation in anti-HIV activity demonstrates that immune protection in the vagina is not constant. Intra- and interindividual variations suggest that factors in addition to sex hormones influence antiviral protection. Lastly, the menstrual cup is a new model for recovering undiluted vaginal secretions from women throughout their reproductive life.

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