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Keywords:

  • Cytokines;
  • diaphragm;
  • Human immunodeficiency virus;
  • inflammation;
  • innate immunity;
  • microbicides

Objective  Diaphragms are being considered for use with vaginal microbicide gels to provide enhanced protection against sexually transmitted pathogens. The purpose of this study was to determine whether use of a diaphragm with microbicide or placebo gel causes cervicovaginal inflammation or perturbations in cervicovaginal immune defense.

Method of study  Eighty-one non-pregnant women were randomized into three groups and instructed to use Milex® (CooperSurgical, Inc., Trumbull, CT, USA)diaphragms overnight for 14 days in combination with one of the two acid-buffering microbicide gels [ACIDFORM (Instead Inc., La Jolla, CA, USA) or BufferGel (BG; ReProtect Inc., Baltimore, Maryland)] or placebo gel (K-Y Jelly®; Personal Products Inc., Raritan, NJ, USA). Cervicovaginal lavages (CVLs) were performed prior to study entry and on days 8 and 16. Nine soluble mediators of vaginal inflammation or immune defense were measured in CVLs by Bio-Plex or ELISA.

Results  Use of diaphragms with placebo or microbicide gel was not associated with increased levels of inflammation markers. Concentrations of secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) were markedly reduced in the BG group.

Conclusion  Daily use of a diaphragm with placebo or acidifying microbicide gel did not cause cervicovaginal inflammation. However, diaphragm/BG use was associated with markedly reduced levels of SLPI, an important mediator of innate immune defense. Further studies are warranted to establish the safety of diaphragm/microbicide gel combinations.