PROBLEM: Women are more susceptible to vaginal candidiasis when the host immune response is suppressed. The antioxidant nutrient beta-carotene is postulated to possess immunoenhancing properties. The purpose of this study was to investigate beta-carotene concentrations in exfoliated vaginal epithelial (EVE) cells in women with vaginal candidiasis.
METHODS: Beta-carotene levels in EVE cells, collected by a saline lavage technique from 22 women with vaginal candidiasis and 20 normal controls, were analyzed. The diagnosis of vaginal candidiasis was established by the presence of pruritus, white cheesy vaginal discharge, and a positive potassium hydroxide preparation. Beta-carotene levels were assayed using high pressure liquid chromatography.
RESULTS: Vaginal cell concentrations of beta-carotene were significantly decreased in women with vaginal candidiasis (P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Decreased beta-carotene levels, and possibly other antioxidants, may alter the local immune response resulting in disturbances in the vaginal flora, overgrowth of Candida, and the development of vaginal candidiasis.