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1.  IL-22 and IDO1 Affect Immunity and Tolerance to Murine and Human Vaginal Candidiasis 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(7):e1003486.
The ability to tolerate Candida albicans, a human commensal of the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, implicates that host defense mechanisms of resistance and tolerance cooperate to limit fungal burden and inflammation at the different body sites. We evaluated resistance and tolerance to the fungus in experimental and human vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) as well as in recurrent VVC (RVVC). Resistance and tolerance mechanisms were both activated in murine VVC, involving IL-22 and IL-10-producing regulatory T cells, respectively, with a major contribution by the enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1). IDO1 was responsible for the production of tolerogenic kynurenines, such that replacement therapy with kynurenines restored immunoprotection to VVC. In humans, two functional genetic variants in IL22 and IDO1 genes were found to be associated with heightened resistance to RVVC, and they correlated with increased local expression of IL-22, IDO1 and kynurenines. Thus, IL-22 and IDO1 are crucial in balancing resistance with tolerance to Candida, their deficiencies are risk factors for RVVC, and targeting tolerance via therapeutic kynurenines may benefit patients with RVVC.
Author Summary
This study disentangles resistance and tolerance components of murine and human C. albicans vaginal infection and introduces the challenging notion of a disease due to a defective tolerance mechanism. Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) and recurrent VVC (RVVC) are two forms of disease that affect a large number of otherwise healthy women. Uncomplicated VVC is associated with several predisposing factors, whereas RVVC, marked by idiopathic recurrent episodes, may be virtually untreatable. Despite a growing list of recognized risk factors, further understanding of anti-Candida host defense mechanisms in the vagina is needed to optimize vaccine development and immune interventions to integrate with, or even replace, antifungal therapy. Indeed, medical treatments that increase host resistance, such as antifungals, are highly effective for individual symptomatic attacks but do not prevent recurrences and there is concern that repeated treatments might induce drug resistance. As tolerance mechanisms are not expected to have the same selective pressure on pathogens, new drugs that target tolerance will provide therapies to which low-virulence pathogens, such as C. albicans, will not develop resistance. This study provides a proof-of-concept that targeting tolerance via therapeutic kynurenines may benefit patients with RVVC.
PMCID: PMC3708875  PMID: 23853597
2.  Gene polymorphisms in pattern recognition receptors and susceptibility to idiopathic recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis 
Objective: Approximately 5% of women suffer from recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC). It has been hypothesized that genetic factors play an important role in the susceptibility to RVVC. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of genetic variants of genes encoding for pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) on susceptibility to RVVC.
Study design: For the study, 119 RVVC patients and 263 healthy controls were recruited. Prevalence of polymorphisms in five PRRs involved in recognition of Candida were investigated in patients and controls. In silico and functional studies were performed to assess their functional effects.
Results: Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TLR1, TLR4, CLEC7A, and CARD9 did not affect the susceptibility to RVVC. In contrast, a non-synonymous polymorphism in TLR2 (rs5743704, Pro631His) increased the susceptibility to RVVC almost 3-fold. Furthermore, the TLR2 rs5743704 SNP had deleterious effects on protein function as assessed by in silico analysis, and in vitro functional assays suggested that it reduces production of IL-17 and IFNγ upon stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with Candida albicans. No effects were observed on serum mannose-binding lectin concentrations.
Condensation: This study demonstrates the association of susceptibility to RVVC with genetic variation in TLR2, most likely caused by decreased induction of mucosal antifungal host defense.
Conclusion: Genetic variation in TLR2 may significantly enhance susceptibility to RVVC by modulating host defense mechanisms against Candida. Additional studies are warranted to assess systematically the role of host genetic variation for susceptibility to RVVC.
PMCID: PMC4172055  PMID: 25295030
RVVC; genetic variation; pattern recognition receptors; cytokines
3.  An Intravaginal Live Candida Challenge in Humans Leads to New Hypotheses for the Immunopathogenesis of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(5):2939-2946.
Acute and recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) remains a significant problem in women of childbearing age. While clinical studies of women with recurrent VVC (RVVC) and animal models have provided important data about a limited protective role of adaptive immunity, there remains a paucity of information on the protective mechanisms or factors associated with susceptibility to infection. In the present study, an intravaginal live Candida challenge in healthy adult women showed a differential susceptibility to symptomatic VVC, where 3 (15%) of 19 women with no history of VVC acquired a symptomatic infection compared to 6 (55%) of 11 women with an infrequent history of VVC. Furthermore, these studies revealed that protection against infection is noninflammatory while symptomatic infection correlates with a vaginal infiltration of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) and a high vaginal fungal burden. Thus, the presence of symptomatic infection appears more dependent on host factors than on properties of the organism. Finally, vaginal lavage fluid from women with a symptomatic infection, but not those asymptomatically colonized, promoted the chemotaxis of PMNs. These results suggest that rather than RVVC/VVC being caused by an aberrant adaptive immune response, symptoms that define infection appear to be due to an aggressive innate response by PMNs.
PMCID: PMC387876  PMID: 15102806
4.  Chronic vulvovaginal Candida hypersensitivity: An underrecognized and undertreated disorder by allergists 
Allergy & Rhinology  2015;6(1):e44-e49.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis infections are estimated to occur at least once during the lifetime of 75% of the female population. It has been proposed that some women with recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC) develop sensitization to Candida albicans and clinically improve in response to Candida immunotherapy. Here, we report a case series of 12 women diagnosed with chronic vulvovaginal Candida hypersensitivity subsequently treated with Candida immunotherapy and review potential systemic and localized host immune defense mechanisms involved in C. albicans overgrowth and sensitization. A retrospective review of vulvovaginal Candida hypersensitivity in women who were treated with C. albicans immunotherapy over the past eight years was conducted. Twelve women who qualified for a diagnosis of vulvovaginal Candida hypersensitivity were treated with Candida immunotherapy. Eleven of the 12 (92%) women reported clinical improvement after immunotherapy. The majority of these women were not sensitized to seasonal or perennial aeroallergens and clinically responded to lower concentrations of C. albicans allergen than what has been previously reported. In general, Candida immunotherapy was well tolerated. Chronic vulvovaginal Candida hypersensitivity is an underrecognized disorder by primary care physicians and therefore an undertreated disorder by allergists. A double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomized trial is necessary to firmly establish the efficacy of treatment with Candida immunotherapy. This investigation should be designed to include mechanistic studies that would help to better understand the etiology of this disorder.
PMCID: PMC4388876  PMID: 25860170
Candida albicans; hypersensitivity; immunotherapy; recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis; cell-mediated immunity; humoral immunity; Treg cells
5.  Local Production of Chemokines during Experimental Vaginal Candidiasis 
Infection and Immunity  1999;67(11):5820-5826.
Recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis, caused by Candida albicans, is a significant problem in women of childbearing age. Although cell-mediated immunity (CMI) due to T cells and cytokines is the predominant host defense mechanism against C. albicans at mucosal tissue sites, host defense mechanisms against C. albicans at the vaginal mucosa are poorly understood. Based on an estrogen-dependent murine model of vaginal candidiasis, our data suggest that systemic CMI is ineffective against C. albicans vaginal infections. Thus, we have postulated that local immune mechanisms are critical for protection against infection. In the present study, the kinetic production of chemokines normally associated with the chemotaxis of T cells, macrophages (RANTES, MIP-1α, MCP-1), and polymorphonuclear neutrophils (MIP-2) was examined following intravaginal inoculation of C. albicans in estrogen-treated or untreated mice. Results showed significant increases in MCP-1 protein and mRNA in vaginal tissue of infected mice as early as 2 and 4 days postinoculation, respectively, that continued through a 21-day observation period, irrespective of estrogen status. No significant changes were observed with RANTES, MIP-1α, or MIP-2, although relatively high constitutive levels of RANTES mRNA and MIP-2 protein were observed. Furthermore, intravaginal immunoneutralization of MCP-1 with anti-MCP-1 antibodies resulted in a significant increase in vaginal fungal burden early during infection, suggesting that MCP-1 plays some role in reducing the fungal burden during vaginal infection. However, the lack of changes in leukocyte profiles in vaginal lavage fluids collected from infected versus uninfected mice suggests that MCP-1 functions to control vaginal C. albicans titers in a manner independent of cellular chemotactic activity.
PMCID: PMC96961  PMID: 10531235
6.  Candida-specific cell-mediated immunity is demonstrable in mice with experimental vaginal candidiasis. 
Infection and Immunity  1993;61(5):1990-1995.
Women with recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis often demonstrate a down-regulation of cell-mediated immunity (CMI) to Candida albicans detected by a lack of cutaneous delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) to Candida antigens. However, the role of systemic CMI as a host defense mechanism against recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis is not well understood, in part because of the lack of a well-defined murine model of vaginal candidiasis. The present study was undertaken to determine: (i) whether soluble Candida culture filtrate antigens (CaCF) could be used to induce and detect Candida-specific CMI in mice and (ii) whether these antigens would be useful in detecting systemic CMI in mice given an experimental Candida vaginal infection. To this end, mice were immunized subcutaneously with CaCF in complete Freund's adjuvant, and within 7 days they developed Candida-specific DTH reactivity detected by footpad swelling (increase in footpad thickness, 0.36 mm) 24 h after footpad challenge with CaCF. Adoptive transfer studies showed that the DTH responsiveness was elicited by CD4+ DTH T cells. In mice given a vaginal inoculum of C. albicans blastoconidia (5 x 10(5)), footpad challenge with CaCF resulted in positive DTH responses (0.24 mm) as early as 1 week, responses similar to immunization in 2 to 3 weeks (0.33 mm), and sustained low levels of DTH reactivity (0.15 mm) through 10 weeks of vaginal infection. Vaginal lavage cultures revealed that peak vaginal Candida burden occurred 1 week post-vaginal inoculation (10(5) CFU) and declined 16-fold by week 10. These results provide evidence that Candida-specific systemic CMI is generated and can be detected longitudinally in mice with Candida vaginitis by a multiantigen preparation of Candida organisms which both initiates and detects Candida-specific CMI.
PMCID: PMC280793  PMID: 8097493
7.  Mannose-Binding Lectin Codon 54 Gene Polymorphism and Vulvovaginal Candidiasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:738298.
Mannose-binding lectin (MBL) plays a key role in the human innate immune response. It has been shown that polymorphisms in the MBL2 gene, particularly at codon 54 (variant allele B; wild-type allele designated as A), impact upon host susceptibility to Candida infection. This systematic review and meta-analysis were performed to assess the association between MBL2 codon 54 genotype and vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) or recurrent VVC (RVVC). Studies were searched in MEDLINE, SCOPUS, and ISI Web of Science until April 2013. Five studies including 704 women (386 cases and 318 controls) were part of the meta-analysis, and pooled ORs were calculated using the random effects model. For subjects with RVVC, ORs of AB versus AA and of BB versus AA were 4.84 (95% CI 2.10–11.15; P for heterogeneity = 0.013; I2 = 68.6%) and 12.68 (95% CI 3.74–42.92; P for heterogeneity = 0.932, I2 = 0.0%), respectively. For subjects with VVC, OR of AB versus AA was 2.57 (95% CI 1.29–5.12; P for heterogeneity = 0.897; I2 = 0.0%). This analysis indicates that heterozygosity for the MBL2 allele B increases significantly the risk for both diseases, suggesting that MBL may influence the women's innate immunity in response to Candida.
PMCID: PMC3910669  PMID: 25143944
8.  Usage of antifungal drugs for therapy of genital Candida infections, purchased as over-the-counter products or by prescription: I. Analyses of a unique database. 
OBJECTIVES: To present sales figures of antifungal drugs for treatment of genital Candida infections in females, which had been purchased in the Swedish county of Skåne (with approximately 1.2 million inhabitants) during the 1990s. To study the relative proportions of the drugs sold by prescription and as over-the-counter (OTC) products. METHODS: Sales figures of antifungal drugs for therapy of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) and such recurrent infections (RVVC), for the years 1990--99, were collected from the 'ACS' database of the National Corporation of Swedish Pharmacies. RESULTS: The study showed an increase in sales of the type of drugs studied from 45,000 packages in 1990 until mid-93/94, when approximately 70,000 packages were sold (mainly azoles for topical use and fluconazole for oral intake). Thereafter there was a decrease until the end of November 1999, when 54,000 packages were purchased. Of the total sales, 93% were OTC products. Sales of clotrimazole and econazole (for vaginal installation) in 1993--1994 were equal to 85-90 packages/1000 women in the age group 15-45 years. Extremely high sales volumes of fluconazole and itraconazole, for one single year each, could be explained by marketing-related activities directed to the medical community. CONCLUSIONS: As many women with RVVC are not cured by iatrogenic initiatives and women consider themselves able to diagnose episodes of genital Candida infection, affected women generally turn to self-medication with antifungal OTC products. This stresses the role of pharmacy counseling. Short-term marked alterations in sales volumes may be due to marketing factors rather than changes in the epidemiology of genital Candida infections.
PMCID: PMC1784597  PMID: 15739823
9.  Usage of antifungal drugs for therapy of genital Candida infections, purchased as over-the-counter products or by prescription: 2. Factors that may have influenced the marked changes in sales volumes during the 1990s. 
BACKGROUND: The epidemiology of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) and such recurrent infections (RVVC) has been difficult to study as the majority of episodes of these conditions are self-treated by the women affected. In Sweden, all pharmacies are owned by the state and all prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) products, such as antifungals, are registered in a database, which offers unique possibilities to study the epidemiology of VVC/RVVC. OBJECTIVES: To analyze all prescriptions and OTC products purchased for therapy of VVC/RVVC and to establish reasons for any observed variation in the sales figures. METHODS: Sales figures in the Swedish county of Skåne of antifungal drugs for therapy of VVC/RVVC were analyzed by the aid of the 'ACS' database of the National Corporation of Swedish Pharmacies for the years 1990--1999. The size of the female population in the county is approximately half a million. RESULTS: The study showed that 93% of all antifungal drugs for VVC/RVVC were sold as OTC products. An increase in sales of the drugs occurred until mid- 1993/94, followed by a decrease until end of the study period in 1999. Demographic factors (e.g. the number of female inhabitants in the county, pharmacies and health-care units), the pregnancy rate and pharmacy-dependent factors (such as the introduction of shelves for self-selection of antifungal products) did not explain the observed variations in sales. Distinct short-term variations in the number of prescriptions of fluconazole and itraconazole could be explained by drugs company sales campaigns and logistics factors in drug distribution. The sales volumes in the 33 municipalities in the county correlated with the density of the population, which was not the case for the total number of prescriptions made in the county during the 1990s. The variation in antifungal drug sales was similar to that of hormonal intrauterine devices, but this was not the case for oral contraceptives. The total Swedish usage of antibiotics showed a similar variation to that of the antifungal drugs analyzed. CONCLUSION: The study stresses the limited impact on the treatment of VVC/RVVC by the medical community. Behavior-related factors in the female population are the most likely explanation for the marked variations found in the usage of drugs for the two conditions.
PMCID: PMC1784592  PMID: 15739824
10.  Can the diagnosis of recurrent vulvovaginal candidosis be improved by use of vaginal lavage samples and cultures on chromogenic agar? 
OBJECTIVE: To investigate if introital and vaginal flushing samples inoculated on chromogenic agar could increase the recovery rate and rapid identification of Candida and non-albicans species, as compared to culture of posterior vaginal fornix samples on Sabouraud agar and speciation of isolates by biochemical tests. METHODS: Samples from the introitus and the posterior vaginal fornix and vaginal lavage samples were collected from 91 women with a history suggestive of recurrent vulvovaginal candidosis (RVVC), and with a suspected new attack of the condition. The specimens were cultured on Sabouraud and CHROMagar. Speciation of yeast isolates was made on the chromogenic agar by API 32C kits and by an atomized system (Vitek). RESULTS: Forty-six (51%) women were positive for Candida from one or more of the samples. The introital cultures were positive in 43 (47%) women, both on Sabouraud and chromogenic agar. From the posterior vaginal fomix, 42 (46%) women were positive on the Sabouraud and 43 (47%) on chromogenic agar cultures, while the vaginal lavage cultures yielded Candida on those two media in 40 (44%) and 41 (45%) cases, respectively. Candida albicans was the most frequent species recovered, from 40 (87%) cases, followed by C. krusei in 4 (9%), C. glabrata in 2 (4%), and C. parapsilosis in one case. There was only one woman who had a mixed yeast infection, by C. albicans and C. krusei. There was only one discrepancy in the speciation as demonstrated by mean of chromogenic agar and API 32C kit. CONCLUSIONS: Neither cultures of introital nor of vaginal lavage samples increases the detection rate of Candida in RVVC cases as compared to cultures of posterior vaginal fornix samples. Use of chromogenic agar is a convenient and reliable means to detect colonization by Candida and differentiate between C. albicans and non-albicans species.
PMCID: PMC1784607  PMID: 12530485
11.  β-Glucan Induces Reactive Oxygen Species Production in Human Neutrophils to Improve the Killing of Candida albicans and Candida glabrata Isolates from Vulvovaginal Candidiasis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107805.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) is among the most prevalent vaginal diseases. Candida albicans is still the most prevalent species associated with this pathology, however, the prevalence of other Candida species, such as C. glabrata, is increasing. The pathogenesis of these infections has been intensely studied, nevertheless, no consensus has been reached on the pathogenicity of VVC. In addition, inappropriate treatment or the presence of resistant strains can lead to RVVC (vulvovaginal candidiasis recurrent). Immunomodulation therapy studies have become increasingly promising, including with the β-glucans. Thus, in the present study, we evaluated microbicidal activity, phagocytosis, intracellular oxidant species production, oxygen consumption, myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity, and the release of tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), interleukin-8 (IL-8), IL-1β, and IL-1Ra in neutrophils previously treated or not with β-glucan. In all of the assays, human neutrophils were challenged with C. albicans and C. glabrata isolated from vulvovaginal candidiasis. β-glucan significantly increased oxidant species production, suggesting that β-glucan may be an efficient immunomodulator that triggers an increase in the microbicidal response of neutrophils for both of the species isolated from vulvovaginal candidiasis. The effects of β-glucan appeared to be mainly related to the activation of reactive oxygen species and modulation of cytokine release.
PMCID: PMC4168232  PMID: 25229476
12.  Vaginal Microbiota of Women with Frequent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(9):4130-4135.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) is an insidious infection that afflicts a large proportion of women of all ages, and 5 to 8% of affected women experience recurrent VVC (RVVC). The aim of this study was to explore the possible importance of vaginal bacterial communities in reducing the risk of RVVC. The species composition and diversity of microbial communities were evaluated for 42 women with and without frequent VVC based on profiles of terminal restriction fragment polymorphisms of 16S rRNA genes and phylogenetic analysis of cloned 16S rRNA gene sequences from the numerically dominant microbial populations. The data showed that there were no significant differences between the vaginal microbial communities of women in the two groups (likelihood score, 5.948; bootstrap P value, 0.26). Moreover, no novel bacteria were found in the communities of women with frequent VVC. The vaginal communities of most women in both groups (38/42; 90%) were dominated by species of Lactobacillus. The results of this study failed to provide evidence for the existence of altered or unusual vaginal bacterial communities in women who have frequent VVC compared to women who do not have frequent VVC. The findings suggest that commensal vaginal bacterial species may not be able to prevent VVC.
PMCID: PMC2738030  PMID: 19528218
13.  Isolation of Different Species of Candida in Patients With Vulvovaginal Candidiasis From Sari, Iran 
Vulvovaginal Candidiasis (VVC) is a frequent, complex and cumbersome condition that can cause physical and psychological distress for the involved individual. Candida albicans was reported as the most common agent of VVC yet it seems that we are recently encountering changes in the pattern of Candida species in VVC.
In this study we assessed different species of Candida isolated from patients with VVC, residing in Sari, Iran.
Patients and Methods:
Two hundred and thirty-four patients with vulvovaginitis were enrolled in this study. Samples were collected by a wet swab. Each vaginal swab was examined microscopically and processed for fungal culture. The identification of Candida species was done by morphological and physiological methods such as culture on CHROMagar Candida media and sugar assimilation test with the HiCandida identification kit (HiMedia, Mumbai, India).
Out of 234 patients with vulvovaginitis, 66 (28.2%) patients showed VVC. Of these patients, 16 (24.2%) had recurrent VVC (RVVC). The age group of 20 - 29 year-olds had the highest frequency of VVC (48.5%). Erythema concomitant with itching (40.9%) was the most prevalent sign in VVC patients. Fifty-seven (86.4%) of the collected samples had positive results from both microscopic examination and culture. In total, 73 colonies of Candida spp. were isolated from 66 patients with VVC. The most common identified species of Candida were C. albicans (42.5%), C. glabrata (21.9%) and C. dubliniensis (16.4%). In patients with RVVC and patients without recurrence, C. albicans and non-albicans species of Candida were frequent species, respectively.
The results of our study showed that non-albicans species of Candida are more frequent than C. albicans in patients with VVC. This result is in line with some recent studies indicating that non-albicans species of Candida must be considered in gynecology clinics due to the reported azole resistance in these species.
PMCID: PMC4449843  PMID: 26034533
Incidence; Candida; Vulvovaginal Candidiasis
14.  Subjective health status and health-related quality of life among women with Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidosis (RVVC) in Europe and the USA 
Recurrent vulvovaginal candidosis (RVVC) is a chronic condition causing discomfort and pain. Health status and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in RVVC were never previously described using validated questionnaires. The objective of this study is to describe subjective health status and HRQoL and estimate health state utilities among women with RVVC.
A cross-sectional online survey was conducted among women who reported having suffered four or more yeast infections over the past 12 months, in five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) and the USA. Index scores were derived from the EQ-5D, a questionnaire providing a single index value for health status. The SF-36 questionnaire was used for HRQoL assessment. Information on disease severity, treatment patterns and productivity was also collected.
12,834 members of online research panels were contacted. Among them, 620 women with RVVC (5%) were selected to complete the full questionnaire. The mean EQ-5D index score was 0.70 (95% confidence interval: [0.67, 0.72]) and the difference between women with a yeast infection at the time of questionnaire completion and other respondents was 0.05 (p = 0.47). The EQ-5D index score increased significantly with the time since last infection (p < 0.001). 68% of women reported depression/anxiety problems during acute episode, and 54% outside episodes, compared to less than 20% in general population (p < 0.001). All SF-36 domain scores were significantly below general population norms. Mental health domains were the most affected. The impact on productivity was estimated at 33 lost work hours per year on average, corresponding to estimated costs between €266/year and €1,130/year depending on the country.
Subjective health status and HRQoL during and in between acute inflammatory episodes in women with RVVC are significantly worse than in the general population, despite the use of antifungal therapy. The average index score in women with RVVC is comparable to other diseases such as asthma or COPD and worse than diseases such as headache/migraine according to US and UK catalogs of index scores. The survey also revealed a significant loss of productivity associated with RVVC.
PMCID: PMC3815627  PMID: 24119427
15.  Vaginal and Oral Epithelial Cell Anti-Candida Activity  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(12):7081-7088.
Candida albicans is the causative agent of acute and recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC), a common mucosal infection affecting significant numbers of women in their reproductive years. While any murine host protective role for cell-mediated immunity (CMI), humoral immunity, and innate resistance by neutrophils against the vaginal infection appear negligible, significant in vitro growth inhibition of Candida species by vaginal and oral epithelial cell-enriched cells has been observed. Both oral and vaginal epithelial cell anti-Candida activity has a strict requirement for cell contact to C. albicans with no role for soluble factors, and oral epithelial cells inhibit C. albicans through a cell surface carbohydrate moiety. The present study further evaluated the inhibitory mechanisms by murine vaginal epithelial cells and the fate of C. albicans by oral and vaginal epithelial cells. Similar to human oral cells, anti-Candida activity produced by murine vaginal epithelial cells is unaffected by enzymatic cleavage of cell surface proteins and lipids but sensitive to periodic acid cleavage of surface carbohydrates. Analysis of specific membrane carbohydrate moieties, however, showed no role for sulfated polysaccharides, sialic acid residues, or glucose and mannose-containing carbohydrates, also similar to oral cells. Staining for live and dead Candida in the coculture with fluorescein diacetate (FDA) and propidium iodide (PI), respectively, showed a clear predominance of live organisms, suggesting a static rather than cidal action. Together, the results suggest that oral and vaginal epithelial cells retard or arrest the growth rather than kill C. albicans through an as-yet-unidentified carbohydrate moiety in a noninflammatory manner.
PMCID: PMC133056  PMID: 12438389
16.  Prospects for Development of a Vaccine to Prevent and Control Vaginal Candidiasis 
A vaccine against recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC) would benefit a large number of women who suffer from this debilitating syndrome. To date, several antigen formulations have been tested with modest results. In this article, we review the latest vaccine study reported in the literature. The candidate is a β-glucan conjugate administered with a human compatible adjuvant. Results in a mouse model of vaginitis were again modest for protection. However, the study included live animal imaging to quantify fungal burden; animals were challenged with a Candida strain carrying a gene encoding a glycophosphatidylinositol (GPI)-linked cell wall protein and luciferase. Fungal burden was expressed as photons following substrate administration. Protection appeared to be mediated by β-glucan antibodies. Although modest protection was observed, the imaging system was less variable than semi-quantitative plate counts of vaginal lavage fluid. Despite these advances in evaluating protection, a vaccine candidate against RVVC worthy of clinical testing remains elusive.
PMCID: PMC3062364  PMID: 21308461
Vaginal candidiasis; Vaginitis; Candida albicans; Vaccine; Mucosal immunity; Antibodies; β-Glucan; Conjugate vaccine; Live animal imaging; Animal models
17.  Candidiasis (vulvovaginal) 
BMJ Clinical Evidence  2010;2010:0815.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis is estimated to be the second most common cause of vaginitis after bacterial vaginosis. Candida albicans accounts for 85% to 90% of cases.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of drug treatments for acute vulvovaginal candidiasis in non-pregnant symptomatic women? What are the effects of alternative or complementary treatments for acute vulvovaginal candidiasis in non-pregnant symptomatic women? What are the effects of treating a male sexual partner to resolve symptoms and prevent recurrence in non-pregnant women with symptomatic acute vulvovaginal candidiasis? What are the effects of alternative or complementary treatments for symptomatic recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis in non-pregnant women? What are the effects of treating a male sexual partner in non-pregnant women with symptomatic recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis? What are the effects of treating asymptomatic non-pregnant women with a positive swab for candidiasis? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to March 2009 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 61 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: alternative or complementary treatments; douching; drug treatments; garlic; intravaginal preparations (boric acid, nystatin, imidazoles, tea tree oil); oral fluconazole; oral itraconazole; treating a male sexual partner; and yoghurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus (oral or vaginal).
Key Points
Vulvovaginal candidiasis is characterised by vulval itching and abnormal "cheese-like" or watery vaginal discharge. Vulvovaginal candidiasis is estimated to be the second most common cause of vaginitis after bacterial vaginosis. Candida albicans accounts for 85% to 90% of cases.Risk factors include pregnancy, diabetes mellitus, and systemic antibiotics. Incidence increases with the onset of sexual activity, but associations with different types of contraceptives are unclear.Recurrent symptoms are common, but are caused by candidiasis in only one third of cases.
Intravaginal imidazoles reduce symptoms of acute vulvovaginal candidiasis in non-pregnant women. Intravaginal imidazoles (butoconazole, clotrimazole, miconazole) reduce symptoms compared with placebo and all seem to have similar efficacy compared with each other. RCTs suggest that single-dose regimens may be as effective as multiple-dose regimens.Intravaginal imidazoles and oral fluconazole or itraconazole seem equally effective in treating acute attacks.
Intravaginal nystatin reduces symptoms compared with placebo, but we don't know how it compares with intravaginal imidazoles or oral fluconazole or itraconazole.
The benefits of other intravaginal treatments, to treat acute attacks or prevent recurrence, remain unclear, and some may be associated with serious adverse effects. We found no RCT evidence assessing intravaginal boric acid or tea tree oil.We found no RCT evidence assessing garlic or yoghurt, used intravaginally or orally.We found no RCT evidence on efficacy of douching, but it is associated with serious adverse effects such as PID and infections, endometritis, and ectopic pregnancy. Oral fluconazole and itraconazole are likely to be beneficial in preventing recurrence of infection. Treating the woman's male sexual partner does not reduce symptoms or prevent recurrence in the woman.
PMCID: PMC2907618  PMID: 21718579
18.  Candida-Specific Antibodies during Experimental Vaginal Candidiasis in Mice  
Infection and Immunity  2002;70(10):5790-5799.
Protective host defense mechanisms against vaginal Candida albicans infections are poorly understood. Although cell-mediated immunity (CMI) is the predominant host defense mechanism against most mucosal Candida infections, the role of CMI against vaginal candidiasis is uncertain, both in humans and in an experimental mouse model. The role of humoral immunity is equally unclear. While clinical observations suggest a minimal role for antibodies against vaginal candidiasis, an experimental rat model has provided evidence for a protective role for Candida-specific immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies. Additionally, Candida vaccination-induced IgM and IgG3 antibodies are protective in a mouse model of vaginitis. In the present study, the role of infection-induced humoral immunity in protection against experimental vaginal candidiasis was evaluated through the quantification of Candida-specific IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies in serum and vaginal lavage fluids of mice with primary and secondary (partially protected) infection. In naïve mice, total, but not Candida-specific, antibodies were detected in serum and lavage fluids, consistent with lack of yeast colonization in mice. In infected mice, Candida-specific IgA and IgG antibodies were induced in serum with anamnestic responses to secondary infection. In lavage fluid, while Candida-specific antibodies were detectable, concentrations were extremely low with no anamnestic responses in mice with secondary infection. The incorporation of alternative protocols—including infections in a different strain of mice, prolongation of primary infection prior to secondary challenge, use of different enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay capture antigens, and concentration of lavage fluid—did not enhance local Candida-specific antibody production or detection. Additionally, antibodies were not removed from lavage fluids by being bound to Candida during infection. Together, these data suggest that antibodies are not readily present in vaginal secretions of infected mice and thus have a limited natural protective role against infection.
PMCID: PMC128320  PMID: 12228309
19.  Leukocyte Esterase Activity in Vaginal Fluid of Pregnant and Non-Pregnant Women With Vaginitis/Vaginosis and in Controls 
Objectives: To determine the leukocyte esterase (LE) activity in vaginal lavage fluid of women with acute and recurrent vulvovaginal candidosis (VVC and RVVC respectively), bacterial vaginosis (BV), and in pregnant and non-pregnant women without evidence of the three conditions. Also to compare the result of LE tests in women consulting at different weeks in the cycle and trimesters of pregnancy.The LE activity was correlated to vaginal pH, number of inflammatory cells in stained vaginal smears, type of predominating vaginal bacteria and presence of yeast morphotypes.
Methods: One hundred and thirteen women with a history of RVVC, i.e. with at least four attacks of the condition during the previous year and who had consulted with an assumed new attack of the condition, were studied. Furthermore, we studied 16 women with VVC, 15 women with BV, and 27 women attending for control of cytological abnormalities, who all presented without evidence of either vaginitis or vaginosis. Finally, 73 pregnant women were investigated. The LE activity in vaginal fluid during different weeks in the cycle of 53 of the women was measured.
Results: In the non-pregnant women, an increased LE activity was found in 96, 88, 73 and 56% of those with RVVC, VVC and BV and in the non-VVC/BV cases, respectively. In 73% of pregnant women in the second trimester, and 76% of those in the third, the LE test was positive. In all groups of non-pregnant women tested, the LE activity correlated with the number of leukocytes in vaginal smears, but it did not in those who were pregnant. There was no correlation between LE activity and week in cycle. The vaginal pH showed no correlation to LE activity in any of the groups studied.
Conclusions: The use of commercial LE dipsticks has a limited value in the differential diagnosis of RVVC, VVCand BV. There is no correlation between the LE activity in vaginal secretion on one hand and vaginal pH, week in the menstrual cycle and trimester in pregnancy on the other. Women with BV often have signs of inflammation as evidenced by a positive LE test and inflammatory cells in genital smears.
PMCID: PMC1852264  PMID: 12839629
20.  Transcriptomic Analysis of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis Identifies a Role for the NLRP3 Inflammasome 
mBio  2015;6(2):e00182-15.
Treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC), caused most frequently by Candida albicans, represents a significant unmet clinical need. C. albicans, as both a commensal and a pathogenic organism, has a complex and poorly understood interaction with the vaginal environment. Understanding the complex nature of this relationship is necessary for the development of desperately needed therapies to treat symptomatic infection. Using transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq), we characterized the early murine vaginal and fungal transcriptomes of the organism during VVC. Network analysis of host genes that were differentially expressed between infected and naive mice predicted the activation or repression of several signaling pathways that have not been previously associated with VVC, including NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Intravaginal challenge of Nlrp3−/− mice with C. albicans demonstrated severely reduced levels of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs), alarmins, and inflammatory cytokines, including interleukin-1β (IL-1β) (the hallmarks of VVC immunopathogenesis) in vaginal lavage fluid. Intravaginal administration of wild-type (WT) mice with glyburide, a potent inhibitor of the NLRP3 inflammasome, reduced PMN infiltration and IL-1β to levels comparable to those observed in Nlrp3−/− mice. Furthermore, RNA-seq analysis of C. albicans genes indicated robust expression of hypha-associated secreted aspartyl proteinases 4, 5, and 6 (SAP4–6), which are known inflammasome activators. Despite colonization similar to that of the WT strain, ΔSAP4–6 triple and ΔSAP5 single mutants induced significantly less PMN influx and IL-1β during intravaginal challenge. Our findings demonstrate a novel role for the inflammasome in the immunopathogenesis of VVC and implicate the hypha-associated SAPs as major C. albicans virulence determinants during vulvovaginal candidiasis.
Vaginitis, most commonly caused by the fungus Candida albicans, results in significant quality-of-life issues for all women of reproductive age. Recent efforts have suggested that vaginitis results from an immunopathological response governed by host innate immunity, although an explanatory mechanism has remained undefined. Using comprehensive genomic, immunological, and pharmacological approaches, we have elucidated the NLRP3 inflammasome as a crucial molecular mechanism contributing to host immunopathology. We have also demonstrated that C. albicans hypha-associated secreted aspartyl proteinases (SAP4–6 and SAP5, more specifically) contribute to disease immunopathology. Ultimately, this study enhances our understanding of the complex interplay between host and fungus at the vaginal mucosa and provides proof-of-principle evidence for therapeutic targeting of inflammasomes for symptomatic vulvovaginal candidiasis.
PMCID: PMC4453569  PMID: 25900651
21.  Systemic vs. Topical Therapy for the Treatment of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis 
It is estimated that 75% of all women will experience at least 1 episode of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) during their lifetimes. Most patients with acute VVC can be treated with short-term regimens that optimize compliance. Since current topical and oral antifungals have shown comparably high efficacy rates, other issues should be considered in determining the most appropriate therapy. It is possible that the use of short-duration narrow-spectrum agents may increase selection of more resistant organisms which will result in an increase of recurrent VVC (RVVC). Women who are known or suspected to be pregnant and women of childbearing age who are not using a reliable means of contraception should receive topical therapy, as should those who are breast-feeding or receiving drugs that can interact with an oral azole and those who have previously experienced adverse effects during azole therapy. Because of the potential risks associated with systemic treatment, topical therapy with a broad-spectrum agent should be the method of choice for VVC, whereas systemic therapy should be reserved for either RVVC or cases where the benefits outweigh any possible adverse reactions.
PMCID: PMC2364342  PMID: 18475346
22.  Candida-specific Th1-type responsiveness in mice with experimental vaginal candidiasis. 
Infection and Immunity  1993;61(10):4202-4207.
The role of systemic cell-mediated immunity (CMI) as a host defense mechanism in the vagina is poorly understood. Using a murine pseudoestrus model of experimental vaginal candidiasis, we previously found that animals given a vaginal inoculum of viable Candida albicans blastoconidia acquired a persistent vaginal infection and developed Candida-specific delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) responses. The present study was designed to characterize the peripheral CMI reactivity generated from the vaginal infection in mice and to determine whether pseudoestrus is a prerequisite for the induction of peripheral CMI reactivity. Mice treated or not treated with estrogen and given a vaginal inoculum of C. albicans blastoconidia were examined for 4 weeks for their vaginal Candida burden and peripheral CMI reactivity, including DTH responsiveness and in vitro Th1 (interleukin-2 [IL-2], gamma interferon [IFN-gamma]/Th2 (IL-4, IL-10)-type lymphokine production in response to Candida antigens. Results showed that although mice not treated with estrogen before being given a vaginal inoculum of C. albicans blastoconidia developed only a short-lived vaginal infection and harbored significantly fewer Candida CFU in the vagina compared with those given estrogen and then infected; DTH reactivity was equivalent in both groups. In vitro measurement of CMI reactivity further showed that lymph node cells from both estrogen- and non-estrogen-treated infected mice produced elevated levels of IL-2 and IFN-gamma in response to Candida antigens during the 4 weeks after vaginal inoculation. In contrast, lymph node cells from the same vaginally infected mice showed no IL-10 production and only small elevations of IL-4 during week 4 of infection. These results suggest that mice with experimental vaginal candidiasis develop predominantly Th1-type Candida-specific peripheral CMI reactivity and that similar patterns of Th1-type reactivity occur in mice regardless of the persistence of infection and the estrogen status of the infected mice.
PMCID: PMC281145  PMID: 8406809
23.  Effects of preinduced Candida-specific systemic cell-mediated immunity on experimental vaginal candidiasis. 
Infection and Immunity  1994;62(3):1032-1038.
It has been postulated that systemic cell-mediated immunity (CMI) is an important host defense factor against recurrent vaginal infections caused by Candida albicans. Using an estrogen-dependent murine model of vaginal candidiasis, we have previously shown that mice inoculated vaginally with C. albicans acquire a persistent vaginal infection and develop Candida-specific Th1-type systemic CMI. In the present study, experimental vaginitis was monitored in the presence of preinduced systemic Candida-specific CMI. Mice immunized systemically with C. albicans culture filtrate antigens (CaCF) in complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) had Th1-type reactivity similar to that of vaginally infected mice. CaCF given to mice intravenously induced Candida-specific suppressor T (Ts) cells. Mice preimmunized with CaCF-CFA and given a vaginal inoculum of C. albicans had positive delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactivity from the time of vaginal inoculation through 4 weeks. Conversely, mice infected in the presence of Ts cells had significantly reduced DTH responses throughout the 4-week period in comparison with naive infected mice. However, the presence of Th1-type Candida-specific DTH cells or Ts cells, either induced in mice prior to vaginal inoculation or adoptively transferred at the time of inoculation, had no effect on the vaginal Candida burden through 4 weeks of infection. A similar lack of effects was obtained in animals with lower Candida population levels resulting from a reduction in or absence of exogenous estrogen. These results suggest that systemic Th1-type CMI demonstrable with CaCF is unrelated to protective events at the level of the vaginal mucosa.
PMCID: PMC186220  PMID: 8112837
24.  Effects of Reproductive Hormones on Experimental Vaginal Candidiasis 
Infection and Immunity  2000;68(2):651-657.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) is an opportunistic mucosal infection caused by Candida albicans that affects large numbers of otherwise healthy women of childbearing age. Acute episodes of VVC often occur during pregnancy and during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, when levels of progesterone and estrogen are elevated. Although estrogen-dependent experimental rodent models of C. albicans vaginal infection are used for many applications, the role of reproductive hormones and/or their limits in the acquisition of vaginal candidiasis remain unclear. This study examined the effects of estrogen and progesterone on several aspects of an experimental infection together with relative cell-mediated immune responses. Results showed that while decreasing estrogen concentrations eventually influenced infection-induced vaginal titers of C. albicans and rates of infection in inoculated animals, the experimental infection could not be achieved in mice treated with various concentrations of progesterone alone. Furthermore, progesterone had no effect on (i) the induction and persistence of the infection in the presence of estrogen, (ii) delayed-type hypersensitivity in primary-infected mice, or (iii) the partial protection from a secondary vaginal infection under pseudoestrus conditions. Other results with estrogen showed that a persistent infection could be established with a wide range of C. albicans inocula under supraphysiologic and near-physiologic (at estrus) concentrations of estrogen and that vaginal fungus titers or rates of infection were similar if pseudoestrus was initiated several days before or after inoculation. However, the pseudoestrus state had to be maintained for the infection to persist. Finally, estrogen was found to reduce the ability of vaginal epithelial cells to inhibit the growth of C. albicans. These results suggest that estrogen, but not progesterone, is an important factor in hormone-associated susceptibility to C. albicans vaginitis.
PMCID: PMC97188  PMID: 10639429
25.  Circulating CD4 and CD8 T cells have little impact on host defense against experimental vaginal candidiasis. 
Infection and Immunity  1995;63(7):2403-2408.
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.
PMCID: PMC173321  PMID: 7790050

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