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The etiology of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis in otherwise healthy women of child-bearing age remains an enigma. To date, results from both clinical studies and a murine model of vaginal candidiasis indicate that Candida vaginitis can occur in the presence of Candida-specific Th1-type cell-mediated immunity expressed in the peripheral circulation. The present study was designed to determine the role of circulating CD4 and CD8 cells in primary and secondary vaginal infections with Candida albicans. Vaginal fungal burden, Candida-specific delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH), and lymph node cell Th1/Th2 cytokine production were monitored in CD4 and/or CD8 cell-depleted mice during persistent primary vaginal infections and secondary vaginal infections against which partial protection was observed. Treatment of mice with anti-CD4 or anti-CD8 antibodies resulted in 90% or greater depletion of the respective cell populations. Mice depleted of CD4 cells had significantly reduced Candida-specific DTH and lymph node cell Th1-type cytokine production during a primary vaginal infection, as well as reduced anamnestic DTH during a secondary vaginal infection. In contrast, mice depleted of CD8 cells showed only reduced gamma interferon production during a primary infection; no alterations in DTH were observed. Despite reductions in DTH and cytokine production, however, CD4 and/or CD8 cell depletion had no effect on vaginal C. albicans burden in mice after a primary or secondary vaginal inoculation. Taken together, these results suggest that while circulating CD4 and CD8 cells contribute to systemic Candida-specific cell-mediated immunity in vaginally infected mice, neither CD4 nor CD8 circulating T cells appear to provide significant host defenses against C. albicans at the vaginal mucosa.