• Genital herpes;
  • microbicides;
  • mucosal immunity;
  • reproductive hormones

Citation Shust GF, Cho S, Kim M, Madan RP, Guzman EM, Pollack M, Epstein J, Cohen HW, Keller MJ, Herold BC. Female genital tract secretions inhibit herpes simplex virus infection: correlation with soluble mucosal immune mediators and impact of hormonal contraception. Am J Reprod Immunol 2010; 63: 110–119

Problem  Female genital tract secretions inhibit herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection, however, the intra- and inter-subject variability, contribution of specific mediators, and impact of reproductive hormones have not been defined.

Method of study  Cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) (n = 89) obtained from nine cyclers and seven women on hormonal contraception (HC), who completed between three and eight weekly visits, were examined for anti-herpes simplex virus activity and concentrations of mediators.

Results  The CVL inhibited HSV infection by a mean value of approximately 57% during the follicular or luteal phase, but only by 36% in hormonal contraceptive users. Human neutrophil peptides 1–3 (HNP1-3) (P = 0.03), IL-8 (P = 0.003), lactoferrin (P = 0.005), lysozyme (P = 0.003), IgA (P = 0.002), and IgG (P = 0.02) correlated with antiviral activity. Intra-subject and inter-subject variability was observed, suggesting that factors other than hormones contribute to innate defense.

Conclusion  Endogenous antimicrobial activity may provide a biomarker of healthy mucosal immunity and may be reduced in the setting of HC. However, larger prospective studies are needed.