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1.  Injectable and Oral Contraceptive Use and Cancers of the Breast, Cervix, Ovary, and Endometrium in Black South African Women: Case–Control Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(3):e1001182.
A case-control study conducted in South Africa provides new estimates of the risk of specific cancers of the female reproductive system associated with use of injectable and oral contraceptives.
Oral contraceptives are known to influence the risk of cancers of the female reproductive system. Evidence regarding the relationship between injectable contraceptives and these cancers is limited, especially in black South Africans, among whom injectable contraceptives are used more commonly than oral contraceptives.
Methods and Findings
We analysed data from a South African hospital-based case–control study of black females aged 18–79 y, comparing self-reported contraceptive use in patients with breast (n = 1,664), cervical (n = 2,182), ovarian (n = 182), and endometrial (n = 182) cancer, with self-reported contraceptive use in 1,492 control patients diagnosed with cancers with no known relationship to hormonal contraceptive use. We adjusted for potential confounding factors, including age, calendar year of diagnosis, education, smoking, alcohol, parity/age at first birth, and number of sexual partners. Among controls, 26% had used injectable and 20% had used oral contraceptives. For current and more recent users versus never users of oral or injectable contraceptives, the odds ratios (ORs) for breast cancer were significantly increased in users of oral and/or injectable contraceptives (OR 1.66, 95% CI 1.28–2.16, p<0.001) and separately among those exclusively using oral (1.57, 1.03–2.40, p = 0.04) and exclusively using injectable (OR 1.83, 1.31–2.55, p<0.001) contraceptives; corresponding ORs for cervical cancer were 1.38 (1.08–1.77, p = 0.01), 1.01 (0.66–1.56, p = 0.96), and 1.58 (1.16–2.15, p = 0.004). There was no significant increase in breast or cervical cancer risk among women ceasing hormonal contraceptive use ≥10 y previously (p = 0.3 and p = 0.9, respectively). For durations of use ≥5 y versus never use, the ORs of ovarian cancer were 0.60 (0.36–0.99, p = 0.04) for oral and/or injectable contraceptive use and 0.07 (0.01–0.49, p = 0.008) for injectable use exclusively; corresponding ORs for endometrial cancer were 0.44 (0.22–0.86, p = 0.02) and 0.36 (0.11–1.26, p = 0.1).
In this study, use of oral and of injectable hormonal contraceptives was associated with a transiently increased risk of breast and cervical cancer and, for long durations of use, with a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. The observed effects of injectable and of oral contraceptives on cancer risk in this study did not appear to differ substantially.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Hormonal contraceptives are among the most commonly used medications. Globally, more than 210 million women currently use either hormonal contraceptive pills or injectable contraceptives. Contraceptive pills usually contain manmade versions of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone (the combined oral contraceptive, or “pill”); most injectable hormonal contraceptives contain only manmade progesterone preparations. Hormonal contraceptives, which prevent pregnancy by disrupting the cyclical changes in estrogen and progesterone levels that prepare the body for pregnancy, have revolutionized birth control since they first became available in the early 1960s. However, it is now known that taking the pill also influences women's risk of developing cancers of the female reproductive system. Current and recent users have an increased risk of developing breast and cervical cancer (the cervix is the structure that connects the womb to the vagina) compared to never users, although this increased risk quickly disappears when women stop taking the pill. By contrast, women who have used the pill have a reduced risk of developing ovarian cancer and cancer of the womb (endometrial cancer) compared to never users that increases with the duration of pill use and persists for many years after use ceases. These effects on reproductive system cancers are thought to occur because these cancers depend on naturally occurring sex hormones for their development and growth.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the evidence that the pill influences the risk of developing cancers of the female reproductive system is extensive, much less is known about how injectable hormonal contraceptives affect cancer risk. In this hospital-based case–control study (a study that compares the characteristics of people with and without a specific condition), the researchers investigate the relationship between the use of oral and injectable hormonal contraceptives and cancers of the breast, cervix, ovary, and endometrium among black South African women. Injectable contraceptives have been used for longer in South Africa than elsewhere and are used more commonly than oral contraceptives among black South African women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
As part of the Johannesburg Cancer Case Control Study, which recruits black patients attending Johannesburg public referral hospitals for cancer treatment, the researchers compared hormonal contraceptive use in women with breast, cervical, ovarian, or endometrial cancer with contraceptive use in women diagnosed with other cancers such as lung, colon, and rectal cancers, which are not known to be influenced by hormonal contraceptives. Among the controls, a quarter had used injectable contraceptives and a fifth had used oral contraceptives. After adjusting for other factors that might influence cancer risk such as age, smoking, and number of sexual partners, the odds ratio (OR) of breast cancer among current and recent users of oral and/or injectable contraceptives compared to never users was 1.66. That is, the risk of developing breast cancer among current and recent users of hormonal contraceptives was 1.66 times that among never users. For women using oral contraceptives exclusively or injectable contraceptives exclusively, the ORs of breast cancer were 1.57 and 1.83, respectively. There were also increases in cervical cancer risk among current and recent users of hormonal contraceptives compared to never users, but no significant increase in breast or cervical cancer risk among women who had ceased hormonal contraceptive use more than ten years previously. Finally, the use of hormonal contraceptives for more than five years reduced the risk of both ovarian and endometrial cancer.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, among black women in South Africa, the use of oral or injectable hormonal contraceptives is associated with a transiently increased risk of breast and cervical cancer, and that extended use of these contraceptives is associated with a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. Moreover, they suggest that the effects of oral versus injectable contraceptives on cancer risk do not differ substantially, although for endometrial and ovarian cancer the small number of cases exposed to injectable contraceptives limits the accuracy of the risk estimates. Other limitations of this study include the possibility that the findings may be affected by uncontrolled confounding. That is, women who used hormonal contraceptives may have shared other unidentified characteristics that affected their cancer risk. Nevertheless, these findings provide new information about the effects of oral and injectable hormonal contraceptives on cancer risk that should help women make informed decisions about their choice of contraceptive method.
Additional Information
Please access these web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides information on breast cancer (including personal stories from breast cancer survivors), cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer for patients and health professionals, and a fact sheet on oral contraceptives and cancer risk (in English and Spanish)
Cancer Research UK also provides information on breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer and information about the birth control pill and cancer risk
Eyes on the Prize, an online support group for women who have had cancers of the female reproductive system, has personal stories; further personal stories about breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer are provided by the charity Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3295825  PMID: 22412354
2.  Consistent Condom Use Increases the Colonization of Lactobacillus crispatus in the Vagina 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70716.
Non-hormonal contraception methods have been widely used, but their effects on colonization by vaginal lactobacilli remain unclear.
To determine the association between non-hormonal contraception methods and vaginal lactobacilli on women’s reproductive health.
The cross-sectional study included 164 healthy women between 18–45 years of age. The subjects were divided into different groups on the basis of the different non-hormonal contraception methods used by them. At the postmenstrual visit (day 21 or 22 of the menstrual cycle), vaginal swabs were collected for determination of Nugent score, quantitative culture and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of vaginal lactobacilli. The prevalence, colony counts and 16S rRNA gene expression of the Lactobacillus strains were compared between the different groups by Chi-square and ANOVA statistical analysis methods.
A Nugent score of 0–3 was more common in the condom group (93.1%) than in the group that used an interuterine device(IUD) (75.4%), (p = 0.005). The prevalence of H2O2-producing Lactobacillus was significantly higher in the condom group (82.3%) than in the IUD group (68.2%), (p = 0.016). There was a significant difference in colony count (mean ± standard error (SE), log10colony forming unit (CFU)/ml) of H2O2-producing Lactobacillus between condom users (7.81±0.14) and IUD users (6.54±0.14), (p = 0.000). The 16S rRNA gene expression (mean ± SE, log10copies/ml) of Lactobacillus crispatus was significantly higher in the condom group (8.09±0.16) than in the IUD group (6.03±0.18), (p = 0.000).
Consistent condom use increases the colonization of Lactobacillus crispatus in the vagina and may protect against both bacterial vaginosis (BV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
PMCID: PMC3720897  PMID: 23894682
3.  Lactobacillus species isolated from vaginal secretions of healthy and bacterial vaginosis-intermediate Mexican women: a prospective study 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:189.
Lactobacillus jensenii, L. iners, L. crispatus and L. gasseri are the most frequently occurring lactobacilli in the vagina. However, the native species vary widely according to the studied population. The present study was performed to genetically determine the identity of Lactobacillus strains present in the vaginal discharge of healthy and bacterial vaginosis (BV) intermediate Mexican women.
In a prospective study, 31 strains preliminarily identified as Lactobacillus species were isolated from 21 samples collected from 105 non-pregnant Mexican women. The samples were classified into groups according to the Nugent score criteria proposed for detection of BV: normal (N), intermediate (I) and bacterial vaginosis (BV). We examined the isolates using culture-based methods as well as molecular analysis of the V1–V3 regions of the 16S rRNA gene. Enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus (ERIC) sequence analysis was performed to reject clones.
Clinical isolates (25/31) were classified into four groups based on sequencing and analysis of the 16S rRNA gene: L. acidophilus (14/25), L. reuteri (6/25), L. casei (4/25) and L. buchneri (1/25). The remaining six isolates were presumptively identified as Enterococcus species. Within the L. acidophilus group, L. gasseri was the most frequently isolated species, followed by L. jensenii and L. crispatus. L. fermentum, L. rhamnosus and L. brevis were also isolated, and were placed in the L. reuteri, L. casei and L. buchneri groups, respectively. ERIC profile analysis showed intraspecific variability amongst the L. gasseri and L. fermentum species.
These findings agree with previous studies showing that L. crispatus, L. gasseri and L. jensenii are consistently present in the healthy vaginal ecosystem. Additional species or phylotypes were detected in the vaginal microbiota of the non-pregnant Mexican (Hispanic-mestizo) population, and thus, these results further our understanding of vaginal lactobacilli colonisation and richness in this particular population.
PMCID: PMC3655868  PMID: 23617246
Lactobacilli; Mexican population; 16S rRNA; Species identification; Vaginal microbiota; Bacterial vaginosis
4.  Phase I Randomized Safety Study of Twice Daily Dosing of Acidform Vaginal Gel: Candidate Antimicrobial Contraceptive 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46901.
Acidform gel, an acid-buffering product that inactivates spermatozoa, may be an effective topical non-hormonal contraceptive. This study was designed to evaluate the safety of vaginal dosing and effects of Acidform on mucosal immune mediators, antimicrobial properties of genital secretions, and vaginal microbiota.
Thirty-six sexually abstinent U.S. women were randomized to apply Acidform or hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC) placebo gel twice daily for 14 consecutive days. Safety was assessed by symptoms and pelvic examination. The impact of gel on mucosal immunity was assessed by quantifying cytokines, chemokines, antimicrobial proteins and antimicrobial activity of genital secretions collected by cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) at screening, 2 hours after gel application, and on days 7, 14 and 21. Vaginal microbiota was characterized at enrollment and day 14 using species-specific quantitative PCR assays.
The median vaginal and cervical pH was significantly lower 2 hours after application of Acidform and was associated with an increase in the bactericidal activity of CVL against E. coli. However, 65% of women who received Acidform had at least one local adverse event compared with 11% who received placebo (p = 0.002). While there was no increase in inflammatory cytokines or chemokines, CVL concentrations of lactoferrin and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), an anti-inflammatory protein, were significantly lower following Acidform compared to HEC placebo gel application. There were no significant changes in Lactobacillus crispatus or Lactobacillus jensenii in either group but there was a decrease in Gardnerella vaginalis in the Acidform group (p = 0.08).
Acidform gel may augment mucosal defense as evidenced by an increase in bactericidal activity of genital secretions against E. coli and a decrease in Gardnerella vaginalis colonization. However, Acidform was associated with more irritation than placebo and lower levels of antimicrobial (lactoferrin) and anti-inflammatory (IL-1ra) proteins. These findings indicate the need for additional safety studies of this candidate non-hormonal contraceptive.
Trial Registration NCT00850837
PMCID: PMC3466198  PMID: 23056520
5.  Identification and characterisation of vaginal lactobacilli from South African women 
Bacterial vaginosis (BV), which is highly prevalent in the African population, is one of the most common vaginal syndromes affecting women in their reproductive age placing them at increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases including infection by human immunodeficiency virus-1. The vaginal microbiota of a healthy woman is often dominated by the species belonging to the genus Lactobacillus namely L. crispatus, L. gasseri, L. jensenii and L. iners, which have been extensively studied in European populations, albeit less so in South African women. In this study, we have therefore identified the vaginal Lactobacillus species in a group of 40 African women from Soweto, a township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.
Identification was done by cultivating the lactobacilli on Rogosa agar, de Man-Rogosa-Sharpe (MRS) and Blood agar plates with 5% horse blood followed by sequencing of the 16S ribosomal DNA. BV was diagnosed on the basis of Nugent scores. Since some of the previous studies have shown that the lack of vaginal hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) producing lactobacilli is associated with bacterial vaginosis, the Lactobacillus isolates were also characterised for their production of H2O2.
Cultivable Lactobacillus species were identified in 19 out of 21 women without BV, in three out of five women with intermediate microbiota and in eight out of 14 women with BV. We observed that L. crispatus, L. iners, L. jensenii, L. gasseri and L. vaginalis were the predominant species. The presence of L. crispatus was associated with normal vaginal microbiota (P = 0.024). High level of H2O2 producing lactobacilli were more often isolated from women with normal microbiota than from the women with BV, although not to a statistically significant degree (P = 0.064).
The vaginal Lactobacillus species isolated from the cohort of South African women are similar to those identified in European populations. In accordance with the other published studies, L. crispatus is related to a normal vaginal microbiota. Hydrogen peroxide production was not significantly associated to the BV status which could be attributed to the limited number of samples or to other antimicrobial factors that might be involved.
PMCID: PMC3600991  PMID: 23351177
Bacterial vaginosis; Lactobacillus; South Africa; Hydrogen peroxide
6.  New and emerging contraceptives: a state-of-the-art review 
The first hormonal contraceptive was introduced onto the market in several countries 50 years ago; however, the portfolio of contraceptive methods remains restricted with regards to their steroid composition, their cost, and their ability to satisfy the requirements of millions of women/couples in accordance with their different reproductive intentions, behaviors, cultures, and settings.
A literature review was conducted using Medline, Embase, and Current Contents databases, up to September 1, 2013 to identify publications reporting new contraceptives in development using combinations of the search terms: contraception, contraceptives, oral contraceptives, patch, vaginal ring, implants, intrauterine contraceptives, and emergency contraception (EC). Also, several experts in the field were also consulted to document ongoing projects on contraception development. Additionally, the website was searched for ongoing studies on existing contraceptive methods and new and emerging female contraceptives developed over the past 5 years. Information was also obtained from the pharmaceutical industry.
Early sexual debut and late menopause means that women may require contraception for up to 30 years. Although oral, injectable, vaginal, transdermal, subdermal, and intrauterine contraceptives are already available, new contraceptives have been developed in an attempt to reduce side effects and avoid early discontinuation, and to fulfill women’s different requirements. Research efforts are focused on replacing ethinyl-estradiol with natural estradiol to reduce thrombotic events. In addition, new, less androgenic progestins are being introduced and selective progesterone receptor modulators and new delivery systems are being used. In addition, research is being conducted into methods that offer dual protection (contraception and protection against human immunodeficiency virus transmission), and contraceptives for use “on demand.” Studies are also investigating non-hormonal contraceptive methods that have additional, non-contraceptive benefits.
The most pressing need worldwide is, first, that the highly effective contraceptive methods already available should be affordable to most of the population and also that these methods should fulfill the needs of women of different ages and with different reproductive requirements. The development of new contraceptive methods should also take advantage of the knowledge obtained over the past 30 years on gamete physiology and gamete interaction to avoid the use of steroid compounds.
PMCID: PMC3933723  PMID: 24570597
emerging contraceptives; patch; vaginal ring; intrauterine devices; spray; emergency contraceptives
7.  Persistence of Lactobacillus fermentum RC-14 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 but Not L. rhamnosus GG in the Human Vagina as Demonstrated by Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA 
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and L. fermentum RC-14 are well-characterized probiotic strains with efficacy in the prevention and treatment of urogenital infections in women. The aim of the present study was to apply a molecular biology-based methodology for the detection of these strains and L. rhamnosus GG (a commercially available intestinal probiotic) in the human vagina in order to assess probiotic persistence at this site. Ten healthy women inserted vaginally a capsule containing either a combination of strains GR-1 and RC-14 or the GG strain for 3 consecutive nights. Vaginal swabs taken before and at various time points after probiotic insertion were analyzed, and the Lactobacillus flora was assessed by randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis. This method generated discrete DNA fingerprints for GR-1, RC-14, and GG and enabled successful detection of these strains in the vagina. Strain GR-1 and/or strain RC-14 was found to persist in the vaginal tract for up to 19 days after vaginal instillation, while L. rhamnosus GG was detectable for up to 5 days postadministration. In conclusion, the fates of probiotic L. rhamnosus and L. fermentum strains were successfully monitored in the human vagina by RAPD analysis. This technique provides molecular biology-based evidence that RC-14 and GR-1, strains selected as urogenital probiotics, persist in the human vagina and may be more suited to vaginal colonization than L. rhamnosus GG. This highlights the importance of proper selection of strains for urogenital probiotic applications.
PMCID: PMC119863  PMID: 11777835
8.  Benefits and risks of hormonal contraception for women 
Scientific background
A large proportion of women of reproductive age in Germany use various methods of pregnancy prevention (contraception), among them various hormone-based methods. Hormonal contraceptives may be divided into combined estrogen-progestogen contraceptives (pills, skin patches, vaginal rings), progestogen-only contraceptives (pills, injections, implants, hormone spirals) and emergency contraceptives.
Research questions
The evaluation addressed the question of benefits and risks of hormonal contraceptives, their economic effects as well as their ethical-social and legal implications.
A systematic literature search was conducted in April 2006 starting from 2000. The evaluation is primarily based on systematic reviews.
In perfect use, all hormonal contraceptives excluding emergency contraceptives proved to be the most effective reversible contraceptive methods (rate of unintended pregnancies 0.05% to 0.3%). However, the typical use of oral contraceptives, injections, skin patches, and vaginal rings, which also considers possible application errors, showed a lower contraceptive efficacy (rate of unintended pregnancies 3% to 8%). It was lower than that of copper spirals.
The risk of venous thromboembolism increased three to six times in users of hormonal contraceptives, the risks of stroke and myocardial infarction two to three times. The risk declined after discontinuation of use. The effects were estrogen-dose and progestogen-type dependent.
The use of hormonal contraceptives showed a relative risk of ovarian and endometrial carcinomas of approximately 0.5 or 0.7, of breast and cervical cancer of approximately 1.2 or 1.6. The effect remained several years after discontinuation of use. The results concerning hepatocellular carcinoma suggested a carcinogenic effect.
In women with acne, an improvement due to use of hormonal contraceptives was proven. Cervical chlamydial infections were more frequent in users of hormonal contraception. Headache appeared mostly only at the beginning of the use of combined oral contraceptives. Progestogen-only contraceptives worsened the results of the glucose tolerance test. A review of low evidence reported further risks of hormonal contraceptives (concerning menstrual problems, ovarian cysts, bone density, thyroid diseases and rheumatoid arthritis) as well as further benefits (concerning blood pressure and Crohn’s disease).
Hormonal spirals were shown to be more effective than spirals which do not release hormones. In emergency contraception, Levonorgestrel was more effective than the Yuzpe method. Most other proven differences between hormonal contraceptives were related to menstrual problems.
After spirals with or without hormone release, the other hormonal contraceptives were shown in typical use to be the second most cost-effective reversible methods of contraception.
The addressed questions could be answered only on relatively low evidence level, partly only for applications with estrogen doses which are not used in Germany any more. The transferability of the results of the analysed primary health-economics studies on the current situation in Germany is limited (clinical assumptions from out-dated information sources of low evidence levels, cost assumptions from the American health system).
In perfect use, hormonal contraceptives have to be classified as the most effective reversible contraceptive methods. For the individual decision concerning the use of hormonal contraception, benefits should be related to the additional risks. Alternative methods such as spirals should be prioritised if perfect use seems to be impossible. In this case, spirals are also preferable from health-economics perspective. No ethical-social or legal conclusions can be derived from the available data.
PMCID: PMC3011324  PMID: 21289940
9.  Twice-Daily Application of HIV Microbicides Alters the Vaginal Microbiota 
mBio  2012;3(6):e00370-12.
Vaginal HIV microbicides offer great promise in preventing HIV transmission, but failures of phase 3 clinical trials, in which microbicide-treated subjects had an increased risk of HIV transmission, raised concerns about endpoints used to evaluate microbicide safety. A possible explanation for the increased transmission risk is that the agents shifted the vaginal bacterial community, resulting in loss of natural protection and enhanced HIV transmission susceptibility. We characterized vaginal microbiota, using pyrosequencing of bar-coded 16S rRNA gene fragments, in samples from 35 healthy, sexually abstinent female volunteer subjects (ages 18 to 50 years) with regular menses in a repeat phase 1 study of twice-daily application over 13.5 days of 1 of 3 gel products: a hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC)-based “universal” placebo (10 subjects), 6% cellulose sulfate (CS; 13 subjects), and 4% nonoxynol-9 (N-9; 12 subjects). We used mixed effects models inferred using Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo methods, which showed that treatment with active agents shifted the microbiota toward a community type lacking significant numbers of Lactobacillus spp. and dominated by strict anaerobes. This state of the vaginal microbiota was associated with a low or intermediate Nugent score and was not identical to bacterial vaginosis, an HIV transmission risk factor. The placebo arm contained a higher proportion of communities dominated by Lactobacillus spp., particularly L. crispatus, throughout treatment. The data suggest that molecular evaluation of microbicide effects on vaginal microbiota may be a critical endpoint that should be incorporated in early clinical assessment of microbicide candidates.
Despite large prevention efforts, HIV transmission and acquisition rates remain unacceptably high. In developing countries, transmission mainly occurs through heterosexual intercourse, where women are significantly more vulnerable to infection than men. Vaginal microbicides are considered to be one of the most promising female-controlled products, in that women themselves insert the microbicides into the vagina to prevent HIV transmission during sexual intercourse. The failure of several microbicides in clinical trials has raised questions concerning the low in vivo efficacy of such anti-HIV molecules. This study was designed to gain insights into the failures of two microbicides by testing the hypothesis that the microbicides negatively affect a critical line of defense against HIV, the vaginal microbiota. The results suggest that in the early assessment of candidate microbicides, culture-independent evaluation of their effect on the vaginal microbiota should be considered and may constitute a critical endpoint.
PMCID: PMC3529542  PMID: 23249810
10.  Hormonal Contraception and the Risk of HIV Acquisition: An Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(1):e1001778.
In a meta-analysis of individual participant data, Charles Morrison and colleagues explore the association between hormonal contraception use and risk of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa.
Observational studies of a putative association between hormonal contraception (HC) and HIV acquisition have produced conflicting results. We conducted an individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis of studies from sub-Saharan Africa to compare the incidence of HIV infection in women using combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or the injectable progestins depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) or norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN) with women not using HC.
Methods and Findings
Eligible studies measured HC exposure and incident HIV infection prospectively using standardized measures, enrolled women aged 15–49 y, recorded ≥15 incident HIV infections, and measured prespecified covariates. Our primary analysis estimated the adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) using two-stage random effects meta-analysis, controlling for region, marital status, age, number of sex partners, and condom use. We included 18 studies, including 37,124 women (43,613 woman-years) and 1,830 incident HIV infections. Relative to no HC use, the aHR for HIV acquisition was 1.50 (95% CI 1.24–1.83) for DMPA use, 1.24 (95% CI 0.84–1.82) for NET-EN use, and 1.03 (95% CI 0.88–1.20) for COC use. Between-study heterogeneity was mild (I2 < 50%). DMPA use was associated with increased HIV acquisition compared with COC use (aHR 1.43, 95% CI 1.23–1.67) and NET-EN use (aHR 1.32, 95% CI 1.08–1.61). Effect estimates were attenuated for studies at lower risk of methodological bias (compared with no HC use, aHR for DMPA use 1.22, 95% CI 0.99–1.50; for NET-EN use 0.67, 95% CI 0.47–0.96; and for COC use 0.91, 95% CI 0.73–1.41) compared to those at higher risk of bias (pinteraction = 0.003). Neither age nor herpes simplex virus type 2 infection status modified the HC–HIV relationship.
This IPD meta-analysis found no evidence that COC or NET-EN use increases women’s risk of HIV but adds to the evidence that DMPA may increase HIV risk, underscoring the need for additional safe and effective contraceptive options for women at high HIV risk. A randomized controlled trial would provide more definitive evidence about the effects of hormonal contraception, particularly DMPA, on HIV risk.
Editors’ Summary
AIDS has killed about 36 million people since the first recorded case of the disease in 1981. About 35 million people (including 25 million living in sub-Saharan Africa) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and every year, another 2.3 million people become newly infected with HIV. At the beginning of the epidemic, more men than women were infected with HIV. Now, about half of all adults infected with HIV are women. In 2013, almost 60% of all new HIV infections among young people aged 15–24 years occurred among women, and it is estimated that, worldwide, 50 young women are newly infected with HIV every hour. Most women become infected with HIV through unprotected intercourse with an infected male partner—biologically, women are twice as likely to become infected through unprotected intercourse as men. A woman’s risk of becoming infected with HIV can be reduced by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few partners, and by always using condoms.
Why Was This Study Done?
Women and societies both benefit from effective contraception. When contraception is available, women can avoid unintended pregnancies, fewer women and babies die during pregnancy and childbirth, and maternal and infant health improves. However, some (but not all) observational studies (investigations that measure associations between the characteristics of participants and their subsequent development of specific diseases) have reported an association between hormonal contraceptive use and an increased risk of HIV acquisition by women. So, does hormonal contraception increase the risk of HIV acquisition among women or not? Here, to investigate this question, the researchers undertake an individual participant data meta-analysis of studies conducted in sub-Saharan Africa (a region where both HIV infection and unintended pregnancies are common) to compare the incidence of HIV infection (the number of new cases in a population during a given time period) among women using and not using hormonal contraception. Meta-analysis is a statistical method that combines the results of several studies; an individual participant data meta-analysis combines the data recorded for each individual involved in the studies rather than the aggregated results from each study.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers included 18 studies that measured hormonal contraceptive use and incident HIV infection among women aged 15–49 years living in sub-Saharan Africa in their meta-analysis. More than 37,000 women took part in these studies, and 1,830 became newly infected with HIV. Half of the women were not using hormonal contraception, a quarter were using depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA; an injectable hormonal contraceptive), and the remainder were using combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN, another injectable contraceptive). After adjustment for other factors likely to influence HIV acquisition (for example, condom use), women using DMPA had a 1.5-fold increased risk of HIV acquisition compared to women not using hormonal contraception. There was a slightly increased risk of HIV acquisition among women using NET-EN compared to women not using hormonal contraception, but this increase was not statistically significant (it may have happened by chance alone). There was no increased risk of HIV acquisition associated with COC use. DMPA use was associated with a 1.43-fold and 1.32-fold increased risk of HIV acquisition compared with COC and NET-EN use, respectively. Finally, neither age nor herpes simplex virus 2 infection status modified the effect of hormonal contraceptive use on HIV acquisition.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this individual patient data meta-analysis provide no evidence that COC or NET-EN use increases a woman’s risk of acquiring HIV, but add to the evidence suggesting that DMPA use increases the risk of HIV acquisition. These findings are likely to be more accurate than those of previous meta-analyses that used aggregated data but are likely to be limited by the quality, design, and representativeness of the studies included in the analysis. These findings nevertheless highlight the need to develop additional safe and effective contraceptive options for women at risk of HIV, particularly those living in sub-Saharan Africa, where although contraceptive use is generally low, DMPA is the most widely used hormonal contraceptive. In addition, these findings highlight the need to initiate randomized controlled trials to provide more definitive evidence of the effects of hormonal contraception, particularly DMPA, on HIV risk.
Additional Information.
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, including personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS and a news report on this meta-analysis
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on women, HIV, and AIDS, and on HIV and AIDS in South Africa (in English and Spanish); personal stories of women living with HIV are available
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS (in several languages); information about a 2012 WHO technical consultation about hormonal contraception and HIV
The 2013 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it; UNAIDS also provides information about HIV and hormonal contraception
PMCID: PMC4303292  PMID: 25612136
11.  Quantitative Real-Time PCR Analysis of Fecal Lactobacillus Species in Infants Receiving a Prebiotic Infant Formula 
The developing intestinal microbiota of breast-fed infants is considered to play an important role in the priming of the infants' mucosal and systemic immunity. Generally, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus predominate the microbiota of breast-fed infants. In intervention trials it has been shown that lactobacilli can exert beneficial effects on, for example, diarrhea and atopy. However, the Lactobacillus species distribution in breast-fed or formula-fed infants has not yet been determined in great detail. For accurate enumeration of different lactobacilli, duplex 5′ nuclease assays, targeted on rRNA intergenic spacer regions, were developed for Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The designed and validated assays were used to determine the amounts of different Lactobacillus species in fecal samples of infants receiving a standard formula (SF) or a standard formula supplemented with galacto- and fructo-oligosaccharides in a 9:1 ratio (OSF). A breast-fed group (BF) was studied in parallel as a reference. During the 6-week intervention period a significant increase was shown in total percentage of fecal lactobacilli in the BF group (0.8% ± 0.3% versus 4.1% ± 1.5%) and the OSF group (0.8% ± 0.3% versus 4.4% ± 1.4%). The Lactobacillus species distribution in the OSF group was comparable to breast-fed infants, with relatively high levels of L. acidophilus, L. paracasei, and L. casei. The SF-fed infants, on the other hand, contained more L. delbrueckii and less L. paracasei compared to breast-fed infants and OSF-fed infants. An infant milk formula containing a specific mixture of prebiotics is able to induce a microbiota that closely resembles the microbiota of BF infants.
PMCID: PMC1448991  PMID: 16597930
12.  Detection of hydrogen peroxide-producing Lactobacillus species in the vagina: a comparison of culture and quantitative PCR among HIV-1 seropositive women 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:188.
The presence of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) producing Lactobacillus in the vagina may play a role in controlling genital HIV-1 shedding. Sensitive molecular methods improve our ability to characterize the vaginal microbiota; however, they cannot characterize phenotype. We assessed the concordance of H2O2-producing Lactobacillus detected by culture with quantitative PCR (qPCR) detection of Lactobacillus species commonly assumed to be H2O2-producers.
Samples were collected as part of a prospective cohort study of HIV-1 seropositive US women. Cervicovaginal lavage specimens were tested for L. crispatus and L. jensenii using 16S rRNA gene qPCR assays. Vaginal swabs were cultured for Lactobacillus and tested for H2O2-production. We calculated a kappa statistic to assess concordance between culture and qPCR.
Culture and qPCR results were available for 376 visits from 57 women. Lactobacilli were detected by culture at 308 (82%) visits, of which 233 of 308 (76%) produced H2O2. L. crispatus and/or L. jensenii were detected at 215 (57%) visits. Concordance between detection of L. crispatus and/or L. jensenii by qPCR and H2O2-producing Lactobacillus by culture was 75% (kappa = 0.45).
Among HIV-1 seropositive women, there was a moderate level of concordance between H2O2-producing Lactobacillus detected by culture and the presence of L. crispatus and/or L. jensenii by qPCR. However, one-quarter of samples with growth of H2O2-producing lactobacilli did not have L. crispatus or L. jensenii detected by qPCR. This discordance may be due to the presence of other H2O2-producing Lactobacillus species.
PMCID: PMC3462152  PMID: 22889380
Lactobacillus; Lactobacillus crispatus; Lactobacillus jensenii; Bacterial vaginosis; Culture; Hydrogen peroxide; 16S rRNA gene
13.  Hormonal contraception, sexual behaviour and HIV prevalence among women in Cameroon 
BMC Women's Health  2008;8:19.
Data on the effect of contraceptive methods, other than the condom, on HIV acquisition is not clear. The aim of this study was to describe hormonal contraceptive use, sexual behaviour and HIV prevalence among women in Cameroon in order to provide baseline information for future analytical studies.
This is a cross-sectional descriptive study based a nationally representative sample of 4486 sexually active women aged 15–49 years who participated in the 2004 Cameroon Demographic and Health Survey.
The overall HIV prevalence was 7.4% (332/4486). The HIV prevalence was higher in the 25–35 year age group (10.03%), urban residents (9.39%), and formerly married (18.48%), compared to their compatriots. The prevalence was lower in women with five or more living child (3.67%), women in the low wealth index category (3.79%) and women who had no formal education (3.37%). The HIV prevalence was higher among women who had two or more partners in the last 12 months (10.26%) and women who reported to have had four or more partners in their lifetime (12.40%). The prevalence of HIV was higher among current hormonal contraceptive users (6.63%) compared to the current non-users (3.06%), among ever users of hormonal contraception (13.27%) compared to the never users (7.11%).
We conclude that the prevalence of HIV among sexually active women in Cameroon varies according to sociodemographic characteristics, sexual behaviour and hormonal contraceptive use. Our findings underscore the need to counsel women using hormonal contraception to be aware that hormonal methods do not protect against HIV infection. Given the biologic plausibility of the link between hormonal contraception and HIV infection, future research should focus on carefully designed prospective studies to establish the temporal relationship and estimate the incidence of HIV infection among women using and not using hormonal contraceptive methods.
PMCID: PMC2584627  PMID: 18973697
14.  Influence of the Vaginal Microbiota on Toxic Shock Syndrome Toxin 1 Production by Staphylococcus aureus 
Menstrual toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a serious illness that afflicts women of premenopausal age worldwide and arises from vaginal infection by Staphylococcus aureus and concurrent production of toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1). Studies have illustrated the capacity of lactobacilli to reduce S. aureus virulence, including the capacity to suppress TSST-1. We hypothesized that an aberrant microbiota characteristic of pathogenic bacteria would induce the increased production of TSST-1 and that this might represent a risk factor for the development of TSS. A S. aureus TSST-1 reporter strain was grown in the presence of vaginal swab contents collected from women with a clinically healthy vaginal status, women with an intermediate status, and those diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis (BV). Bacterial supernatant challenge assays were also performed to test the effects of aerobic vaginitis (AV)-associated pathogens toward TSST-1 production. While clinical samples from healthy and BV women suppressed toxin production, in vitro studies demonstrated that Streptococcus agalactiae and Enterococcus spp. significantly induced TSST-1 production, while some Lactobacillus spp. suppressed it. The findings suggest that women colonized by S. aureus and with AV, but not BV, may be more susceptible to menstrual TSS and would most benefit from prophylactic treatment.
PMCID: PMC3592239  PMID: 23315732
15.  The Effects of Reproductive Hormones on the Physical Properties of Cervicovaginal Fluid 
The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of contraception, menopause and vaginal flora on the physical and biochemical properties of cervicovaginal fluid.
Study Design
Vaginal swabs, cervicovaginal fluid (CVF) and cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) were collected from a total of 165 healthy asymptomatic women including: post-menopausal women (n=29), women in the proliferative (n=26) or follicular (n=27) phase, and women using the levonogestrel intrauterine device (LNG-IUD) (n=28), depomedroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) (n=28) or combined oral contraceptives (OCPs) (n=27). Vaginal smears were evaluated using the Nugent score. The osmolality, viscosity, density and pH of CVL samples were measured.
CVL from postmenopausal women and women with abnormal vaginal flora was less viscous and had higher pH than premenopausal women and women with normal flora, respectively. Women using hormonal contraceptives had more viscous CVL as compared to premenopausal women not using hormonal contraceptives, but this increase in viscosity was mitigated in the presence of bacterial vaginosis. Women using DMPA had less total protein in the CVL as compared to women using the LNG-IUD, and had similar protein content when compared to postmenopausal women.
The differences in CVL protein content between DMPA and LNG-IUD suggest that type of progesterone and route of delivery impact the vaginal environment. Contraceptive hormone users had more viscous CVL than women not using contraceptives. However, the presence of bacterial vaginosis impacted both the pH and viscosity (regardless of hormonal contraceptive use), demonstrating that vaginal flora has a greater impact on the physical properties of cervicovaginal fluid than reproductive hormones.
PMCID: PMC4149850  PMID: 24662718
Contraceptives; cervicovaginal fluid; bacterial vaginosis
16.  The composition and stability of the vaginal microbiota of normal pregnant women is different from that of non-pregnant women 
Microbiome  2014;2:4.
This study was undertaken to characterize the vaginal microbiota throughout normal human pregnancy using sequence-based techniques. We compared the vaginal microbial composition of non-pregnant patients with a group of pregnant women who delivered at term.
A retrospective case–control longitudinal study was designed and included non-pregnant women (n = 32) and pregnant women who delivered at term (38 to 42 weeks) without complications (n = 22). Serial samples of vaginal fluid were collected from both non-pregnant and pregnant patients. A 16S rRNA gene sequence-based survey was conducted using pyrosequencing to characterize the structure and stability of the vaginal microbiota. Linear mixed effects models and generalized estimating equations were used to identify the phylotypes whose relative abundance was different between the two study groups. The vaginal microbiota of normal pregnant women was different from that of non-pregnant women (higher abundance of Lactobacillus vaginalis, L. crispatus, L. gasseri and L. jensenii and lower abundance of 22 other phylotypes in pregnant women). Bacterial community state type (CST) IV-B or CST IV-A characterized by high relative abundance of species of genus Atopobium as well as the presence of Prevotella, Sneathia, Gardnerella, Ruminococcaceae, Parvimonas, Mobiluncus and other taxa previously shown to be associated with bacterial vaginosis were less frequent in normal pregnancy. The stability of the vaginal microbiota of pregnant women was higher than that of non-pregnant women; however, during normal pregnancy, bacterial communities shift almost exclusively from one CST dominated by Lactobacillus spp. to another CST dominated by Lactobacillus spp.
We report the first longitudinal study of the vaginal microbiota in normal pregnancy. Differences in the composition and stability of the microbial community between pregnant and non-pregnant women were observed. Lactobacillus spp. were the predominant members of the microbial community in normal pregnancy. These results can serve as the basis to study the relationship between the vaginal microbiome and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3916806  PMID: 24484853
Community stability; Longitudinal sampling; Pregnancy; Vaginal microbiome; Lactobacillus; Dynamics
17.  Genotyping of Streptococcus agalactiae (group B streptococci) isolated from vaginal and rectal swabs of women at 35-37 weeks of pregnancy 
Group B streptococci (GBS), or Streptococcus agalactiae, are the leading bacterial cause of meningitis and bacterial sepsis in newborns. Here we compared different culture media for GBS detection and we compared the occurrence of different genotypes and serotypes of GBS isolates from the vagina and rectum.
Streptococcus agalactiae was cultured separately from both rectum and vagina, for a total of 150 pregnant women, i) directly onto Columbia CNA agar, or indirectly onto ii) Granada agar resp. iii) Columbia CNA agar, after overnight incubation in Lim broth.
Thirty six women (24%) were colonized by GBS. Of these, 19 harbored GBS in both rectum and vagina, 9 only in the vagina and 8 exclusively in the rectum. The combination of Lim broth and subculture on Granada agar was the only culture method that detected all GBS positive women. Using RAPD-analysis, a total of 66 genotypes could be established among the 118 isolates from 32 women for which fingerprinting was carried out. Up to 4 different genotypes in total (rectal + vaginal) were found for 4 women, one woman carried 3 different genotypes vaginally and 14 women carried two 2 different genotypes vaginally. Only two subjects were found to carry strains with the same genotype, although the serotype of both of these strains was different.
Eighteen of the 19 subjects with GBS at both sites had at least one vaginal and one rectal isolate with the same genotype.
We report the presence of two to four different genotypes in 22 (61%) of the 36 GBS positive women and the presence of identical genotypes in both sites for all women but one.
The combination of Lim broth and subculture on Granada medium provide high sensitivity for GBS detection from vaginal and rectal swabs from pregnant women. We established a higher genotypic diversity per individual than other studies, with up to four different genotypes among a maximum of 6 isolates per individual picked. Still, 18 of the 19 women with GBS from both rectum and vagina had at least one isolate from each sampling site with the same genotype.
PMCID: PMC2753344  PMID: 19747377
18.  Influence of Vaginal Bacteria and d- and l-Lactic Acid Isomers on Vaginal Extracellular Matrix Metalloproteinase Inducer: Implications for Protection against Upper Genital Tract Infections 
mBio  2013;4(4):e00460-13.
We evaluated levels of vaginal extracellular matrix metalloproteinase inducer (EMMPRIN) and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP-8) in vaginal secretions in relation to the composition of vaginal bacterial communities and d- and l-lactic acid levels. The composition of vaginal bacterial communities in 46 women was determined by pyrosequencing the V1 to V3 region of 16S rRNA genes. Lactobacilli were dominant in 71.3% of the women, followed by Gardnerella (17.4%), Streptococcus (8.7%), and Enterococcus (2.2%). Of the lactobacillus-dominated communities, 51.5% were dominated by Lactobacillus crispatus, 36.4% by Lactobacillus iners, and 6.1% each by Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus jensenii. Concentrations of l-lactic acid were slightly higher in lactobacillus-dominated vaginal samples, but most differences were not statistically significant. d-Lactic acid levels were higher in samples containing L. crispatus than in those with L. iners (P < 0.0001) or Gardnerella (P = 0.0002). The relative proportion of d-lactic acid in vaginal communities dominated by species of lactobacilli was in concordance with the proportions found in axenic cultures of the various species grown in vitro. Levels of l-lactic acid (P < 0.0001) and the ratio of l-lactic acid to d-lactic acid (P = 0.0060), but not concentrations of d-lactic acid, were also correlated with EMMPRIN concentrations. Moreover, vaginal concentrations of EMMPRIN and MMP-8 levels were highly correlated (P < 0.0001). Taken together, the data suggest the relative proportion of l- to d-lactic acid isomers in the vagina may influence the extent of local EMMPRIN production and subsequent induction of MMP-8. The expression of these proteins may help determine the ability of bacteria to transverse the cervix and initiate upper genital tract infections.
A large proportion of preterm births (>50%) result from infections caused by bacteria originating in the vagina, which requires that they traverse the cervix. Factors that influence susceptibility to these infections are not well understood; however, there is evidence that matrix metalloproteinase (MMP-8) is known to alter the integrity of the cervix. In this work, we show that concentrations of vaginal extracellular matrix metalloproteinase inducer (EMMPRIN) are influenced by members of the vaginal microbial community and concentrations of d- or l-lactic acid isomers in vaginal secretions. Elevated levels of d-lactic acid and the ratio of d- to l-lactic acid influence EMMPRIN concentrations as well as MMP-8 levels. Thus, isomers of lactic acid may function as signaling molecules that alter host gene expression and influence risk of infection-related preterm birth.
PMCID: PMC3735189  PMID: 23919998
19.  The PAV trial: Does lactobacillus prevent post-antibiotic vulvovaginal candidiasis? Protocol of a randomised controlled trial [ISRCTN24141277] 
Complementary and alternative medicines are used by many consumers, and increasingly are being incorporated into the general practitioner's armamentarium. Despite widespread usage, the evidence base for most complementary therapies is weak or non-existent. Post-antibiotic vulvovaginitis is a common problem in general practice, for which complementary therapies are often used. A recent study in Melbourne, Australia, found that 40% of women with a past history of vulvovaginitis had used probiotic Lactobacillus species to prevent or treat post-antibiotic vulvovaginitis. There is no evidence that this therapy is effective. This study aims to test whether oral or vaginal lactobacillus is effective in the prevention of post-antibiotic vulvovaginitis.
A randomised placebo-controlled blinded 2 × 2 factorial design is being used. General practitioners or pharmacists approach non-pregnant women, aged 18–50 years, who present with a non-genital infection requiring a short course of oral antibiotics, to participate in the study. Participants are randomised in a four group factorial design either to oral lactobacillus powder or placebo and either vaginal lactobacillus pessaries or placebo. These interventions are taken while on antibiotics and for four days afterwards or until symptoms of vaginitis develop. Women self collect a vaginal swab for culture of Candida species and complete a survey at baseline and again four days after completing their study medications. The sample size (a total of 496 – 124 in each factorial group) is calculated to identify a reduction of half in post-antibiotic vulvovaginitis from 23%, while allowing for a 25% drop-out. An independent Data Monitoring Committee is supervising the trial. Analysis will be intention-to-treat, with two pre-specified main comparisons: (i) oral lactobacillus versus placebo and (ii) vaginal lactobacillus versus placebo.
PMCID: PMC521199  PMID: 15046642
20.  The Lactobacillus flora in vagina and rectum of fertile and postmenopausal healthy Swedish women 
BMC Women's Health  2011;11:17.
Lactobacillus species are the most often found inhabitants of vaginal ecosystem of fertile women. In postmenopausal women with low oestrogen levels, Lactobacillus flora is diminishing or absent. However, no studies have been performed to investigate the correlation between oestrogen levels and the lactobacilli in the gut. The aim of the present study was to investigate the relation in healthy women between vaginal and rectal microbial flora as well as possible variations with hormone levels.
Vaginal and rectal smears were taken from 20 healthy fertile women, average 40 years (range 28-49 years), in two different phases of the menstrual cycle, and from 20 postmenopausal women, average 60 years (range 52-85 years). Serum sex hormone levels were analyzed. Bacteria from the smears isolated on Rogosa Agar were grouped by Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA and identified by multiplex PCR and partial 16S rRNA gene sequencing.
Lactobacillus crispatus was more often found in the vaginal flora of fertile women than in that of postmenopausal (p = 0.036). Fifteen of 20 fertile women had lactobacilli in their rectal smears compared to 10 postmenopausal women (p = 0.071). There was no correlation between the number of bacteria in vagina and rectum, or between the number of bacteria and hormonal levels. Neither could any association between the presence of rectal lactobacilli and hormonal levels be found.
Lactobacillus crispatus was more prevalent in the vaginal flora of fertile women, whereas the Lactobacillus flora of rectum did not correlate to the vaginal flora nor to hormonal levels.
PMCID: PMC3118184  PMID: 21609500
Contraception  2012;87(3):319-330.
Steady progress in contraception research has been achieved over the past 50 years. Hormonal and non-hormonal modern contraceptives have improved women’s lives by reducing different health conditions that contributed to considerable morbidity. However the contraceptives available today are not suitable to all users and the need to expand contraceptive choices still exists. Novel products such as new implants, contraceptive vaginal rings, transdermal patches and newer combinations of oral contraceptives have recently been introduced in family planning programs and hormonal contraception is widely used for spacing and limiting births. Concerns over the adverse effects of hormonal contraceptives have led to research and development of new combinations with improved metabolic profile. Recent developments include use of natural compounds such as estradiol (E2) and estradiol valerate (E2V) with the hope to decrease thrombotic risk, in combination with newer progestins derived from the progesterone structure or from spirolactone, in order to avoid the androgenic effects. Progesterone antagonists and progesterone receptor modulators are highly effective in blocking ovulation and preventing follicular rupture and are undergoing investigations in the form of oral pills and in semi long-acting delivery systems. Future developments also include the combination of a contraceptive with an antiretroviral agent for dual contraception and protection against sexually transmitted diseases, to be used before intercourse or on demand, as well as for continuous use in dual-protection rings. Alhough clinical trials of male contraception have reflected promising results, limited involvement of industry in that area of research has decreased the likelihood of having a male method available in the current decade. Development of non-hormonal methods are still at an early stage of research, with the identification of specific targets within the reproductive system in ovaries and testes, as well as interactions between spermatozoa and ova. It is hoped that the introduction of new methods with additional health benefits would help women and couples with unmet needs to obtain access to a wider range of contraceptives with improved acceptability.
PMCID: PMC3530627  PMID: 22995540
Contraception; progestins; nestorone; estetrol; progesterone receptor modulators; long-acting delivery systems; vaginal rings; transdermal contraception
22.  Surfactants as Microbicides and Contraceptive Agents: A Systematic In Vitro Study 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(8):e2913.
The urgent need for cheap and easy-to-use protection against both unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases has stimulated considerable interest in the use of surfactants as microbicides, anti-viral, and contraceptive agents in recent years. In the present study we report a systematic in vitro evaluation of the microbicidal, anti-viral and contraceptive potential of cationic, anionic, zwitterionic, and non-ionic surfactants.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Toxicity was evaluated in mammalian columnar epithelial (MDCK) cells, human sperm cells, Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Streptococcus agalactiae and Enterococcus faecalis. The inhibition of adenovirus and lentivirus infection of MDCK cells was also tested. A homologous series of cationic surfactants, alkyl-N,N,N-trimethylammonium bromides (CnTAB), with varying alkyl chains were shown to be bactericidal and fungicidal at doses that were related to the surfactant critical micelle concentrations (CMC), all of them at concentrations significantly below the CMC. In general, bacteria were more susceptible to this surfactant group than C. albicans and this organism, in turn, was more susceptible than MDCK cells. This suggests that the CnTAB may be useful as vaginal disinfectants only in so far as bacterial and fungal infections are concerned. None of the surfactants examined, including those that have been used in pre-clinical studies, showed inhibition of adenovirus or lentivirus infection of MDCK cells or spermicidal activity at doses that were sub-toxic to MDCK cells.
The results of this study lead us to propose that systematic analysis of surfactant toxicity, such as we report in the present work, be made a mandatory pre-condition for the use of these substances in pre-clinical animal and/or human studies.
PMCID: PMC2488369  PMID: 18682796
23.  Effect of Sexual Debut on Vaginal Microbiota in a Cohort of Young Women 
Obstetrics and gynecology  2012;120(6):1306-1313.
Bacterial vaginosis is uncommon in women who are virgins. We estimated effects of sexual debut on vaginal bacterial colonization.
Women who were virgins and aged 18–22 enrolled in a study of human papillomavirus acquisition were followed every 4 months for up to 2 years. Vaginal swabs from before and after sexual debut, or two independent visits for those remaining virginal were tested by quantitative polymerase chain reaction for Lactobacillus crispatus, L. jensenii, L. iners, Gardnerella vaginalis, and the bacterial vaginosis-associated species Atopobium vaginae, Megasphaera spp., Leptotrichia spp, Sneathia, spp BVAB1, BVAB2, and BVAB3.
We evaluated 97 women: 71 who became sexually active and 26 who remained virginal. At first sampling, 22/26 (85%) of women who remained virginal were colonized with Lactobacillus species compared to 22/26 (85%) at follow-up (p > 0.99). G. vaginalis was present in 12/26 (46%) initially, and 11/26 (42%) at follow-up (p > 0.99). Among women who became sexually active, colonization with Lactobacillus species remained stable: 65/71 (92%) vs. 66/71 (93%) (p > 0.99), while colonization with G. vaginalis increased [28/71 (39%) vs 40/71 (56%); p = 0.02]. Among women who did not initiate sexual activity during the study, 2/26 (8%) had any bacterial vaginosis-associated species detected at both the first and second visits(p > 0.99). Among women who became sexually active during the study 15/71 (21%) were colonized with bacterial vaginosis-associated species initially, compared to 13/71 (18%) after sexual debut (p = 0.77).
Among women who were virgins, vaginal colonization with bacterial vaginosis-associated bacterial species is uncommon and does not change after sexual debut.
PMCID: PMC3548407  PMID: 23168754
24.  Sources of Contraceptive Commodities for Users in Nigeria 
PLoS Medicine  2005;2(11):e306.
Understanding the sources of contraceptive commodities is an important aspect of the delivery of family planning services and is required by planning programme managers for strategic planning purposes. Findings from the 2003 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey have previously showed that the private sector was the most frequently reported source of contraceptive supply, providing contraception to two and a half times as many women as the public sector. We conducted a community-based study to examine further the sources of contraceptive commodity for users in Nigeria with a view to identifying their preferences for distribution centres. This information would be useful to improve commodity distribution and to build the necessary capacity for satisfactory delivery of contraceptives.
Methods and Findings
A multi-stage random sampling technique was used. A state was randomly selected to represent each of the four health zones in Nigeria. Two local government areas (LGAs) were then selected representing both urban and rural areas. Ten enumeration areas were subsequently selected from each LGA. Of the 2,001 respondents aged 15–49 years, 1,647 (82.3%) were sexually active, out of which 244 were found to be using contraceptive methods at the time of the study, giving a contraceptive prevalence of 14.8%. The commonest source of information on contraceptives was through friends (34%), followed by the radio (11.5%) and husbands (10.2%). Most respondents procured their contraceptives from chemist/patent medicine shops (19.7%), while only 0.8% obtained them from designated family planning clinics. The younger groups in this study (15–24 years), single people, Catholics, and Muslims, showed a greater preference for chemist/patent medicine shops for their sources of contraceptives. The older groups and married respondents, however, made use of government and private hospitals to obtain their contraceptives.
Strategies to increase contraceptive use must take into consideration these identified sources of contraceptives with a view to enhancing the quality, quantity, and variety of methods available, and to building capacity for effective service delivery. There is also a need to encourage the establishment of adolescent-friendly clinics where young people can go for counselling and obtain contraceptives of their choice, including emergency contraceptive pills.
In Nigeria contraceptives are available from a wide range of sources, but few, especially young, people get the contraceptives or advice on contraception from official clinics.
PMCID: PMC1255759  PMID: 16218768
25.  Prevalence of vaginal infections and associated lifestyles of students in the university of Cape Coast, Ghana 
To determine the prevalence of vaginal infections and associated lifestyles of students visiting the University of Cape Coast Hospital.
Fifty female students presenting with clinical symptoms of vaginitis were sampled. One hundred samples made up of 50 urine and 50 higher vaginal swabs (HVS) were obtained from patients and questionnaire administered. Samples were wet prepared, examined microscopically, and cultured on blood and chocolate agars for 24 h at (35±2) °C. Colonial morphology, Gram reactions and biochemical tests were used for the identification of isolates.
There were high percentages of pus cells (64%), epithelial cells (62%) and yeast cells (56%) in all urine samples. Bacterial isolates included Staphylococcus aureus (28%) and (22%), Klebsiella spp. (6%) and (4%) in urine and HVS samples respectively; Escherichia coli in urine (18%) and Candida in HVS (16%). The overall prevalence of vaginitis was 66%, including bacterial vaginosis 28%, Candida infection 22% and co-infection of bacterial and Candida 16%. Lifestyle data showed all sampled students were sexually active, 48% used contraceptives, 54% used antimicrobial agents, and 92% prefered wearing of trousers and shorts.
The present study indicates prevalence of vaginal infection among female students, which strongly correlates with student lifestyle. Education on lifestyle modifications will go a long way in reducing the prevalence of vaginitis.
PMCID: PMC4027303
Vaginitis; Prevalence; Bacterial vaginosis; Pus cells; Epithelial cells; Candida spp.

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