HIV-related outcomes may be affected by biological sex and by pregnancy. Including women in general and pregnant women in particular in HIV-related research is important for generalizability of findings.
To characterize representation of pregnant and non-pregnant women in HIV-related research conducted in general populations.
All HIV-related articles published in fifteen journals from January to March of 2011. We selected the top five journals by 2010 impact factor, in internal medicine, infectious diseases, and HIV/AIDS.
Study Eligibility Criteria
HIV-related studies reporting original research on questions applicable to both men and women of reproductive age were considered; studies were excluded if they did not include individual-level patient data.
Study appraisal and synthesis methods.
Articles were doubly reviewed and abstracted; discrepancies were resolved through consensus. We recorded proportion of female study participants, whether pregnant women were included or excluded, and other key factors.
In total, 2014 articles were published during this period. After screening, 259 articles were included as original HIV-related research reporting individual-level data; of these, 226 were determined to be articles relevant to both men and women of reproductive age. In these articles, women were adequately represented within geographic region. The vast majority of published articles, 183/226 (81%), did not mention pregnancy (or related issues); still fewer included pregnant women (n=33), reported numbers of pregnant women (n=19), or analyzed using pregnancy status (n=9).
Data were missing for some key variables, including pregnancy. The time period over which published works were evaluated was relatively short.
Conclusions and implications of key findings.
The under-reporting and inattention to pregnancy in the HIV literature may reduce policy-makers’ ability to set evidence-based policy around HIV/AIDS care for pregnant women and women of child-bearing age.
The use of topical and oral adenosine derivatives in HIV prevention that need to be maintained in tissues and cells at effective levels to prevent transmission prompted us to ask whether estradiol could influence the regulation of catabolic nucleotidase enzymes in epithelial cells and fibroblasts from the upper and lower female reproductive tract (FRT) as these might affect cellular TFV-DP levels. Epithelial cells and fibroblasts were isolated from endometrium (EM), endocervix (CX) and ectocervix (ECX) tissues from hysterectomy patients, grown to confluence and treated with or without estradiol prior to RNA isolation. The expression of nucleotidase (NT) genes was measurable by RT-PCR in epithelial cells and fibroblasts from all FRT tissues. To determine if sex hormones have the potential to regulate NT, we evaluated NT gene expression and NT biological activity in FRT cells following hormone treatment. Estradiol increased expression of Cytosolic 5′-nucleotidase after 2 or 4 h in endometrial epithelial cells but not epithelial cells or fibroblasts from other sites. In studies using a modified 5′-Nucleotidase biological assay for nucleotidases, estradiol increased NT activity in epithelial cells and fibroblasts from the EM, CX and ECX at 24 and 48 h. In related studies, HUVEC primary cells and a HUVEC cell line were unresponsive to estradiol in terms of nucleotidase expression or biological activity. Our findings of an increase in nucleotidase expression and biological activity induced by estradiol do not directly assess changes in microbicide metabolism. However, they do suggest that when estradiol levels are elevated during the menstrual cycle, FRT epithelial cells and fibroblasts from the EM, CX and ECX have the potential to influence microbicide levels that could enhance protection of HIV-target cells (CD4+T cells, macrophages and dendritic cells) throughout the FRT.
In resource-rich areas, risky sexual behavior (RSB) largely diminishes after initiation of anti-retroviral therapy, with notable exceptions among some populations who perceive a protected benefit from anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Yet, there is limited data about long-term trends in risky sexual behavior among HIV-infected people in sub-Saharan Africa after initiation of anti-retroviral therapy.
We administered questionnaires every three months to collect sexual behavior data among patients taking ART in southwestern Uganda over four years of follow-up time. We defined RSB as having unprotected sex with an HIV-negative or unknown status partner, or unprotected sex with a casual partner. We fit logistic regression models to estimate changes in RSB by time on ART, with and without adjustment for calendar year and CD4 count.
506 participants were enrolled between 2005 and 2011 and contributed a median of 13 visits and 3.5 years of observation time. The majority were female (70%) and median age was 34 years (interquartile range 29–39). There was a decrease in the proportion of men reporting RSB from the pre-ART visit to the first post-ART visit (16.2 to 4.3%, p<0.01) but not women (14.1 to 13.3%, p = 0.80). With each year of ART, women reported decreasing RSB (OR 0.85 per year, 95%CI 0.74–0.98, p = 0.03). In contrast, men had increasing odds of reporting RSB with each year of ART to near pre-treatment rates (OR 1.41, 95%CI 1.14–1.74, p = 0.001), which was partially confounded by changes in calendar time and CD4 count (AOR = 1.24, 95%CI 0.92–1.67, p = 0.16).
Men in southwestern Uganda reported increasing RSB over four years on ART, to levels approaching pre-treatment rates. Strategies to promote long-term safe sex practices targeted to HIV-infected men on ART might have a significant impact on preventing HIV transmission in this setting.
Since 2000, reported syphilis cases increased ten-fold in Canada, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM) co-infected with HIV. We characterized temporal patterns of of syphilis testing in a large cohort of HIV patients in Ontario, Canada.
We analyzed data from a multi-site cohort of people in HIV care from 2000 to 2009. Data were obtained from medical charts, interviews and record linkage with the syphilis test database at the Public Health Ontario Laboratories. We estimated the proportion that had syphilis testing at least once per year and the period and annual prevalence of reactive tests.
Among 4232 participants, the annual proportion tested rose from 2.7% (95%CI 1.9, 3.5) in 2000 to 54.6% (95%CI 52.9, 56.3) in 2009. Testing was most common for participants who were men who have sex with men (MSM), aged <30, recently diagnosed with HIV, were antiretroviral treatment naive, had routine HIV lab testing at least twice in that year, or tested for syphilis in the preceding year. The proportion with at least one reactive test in 2000–09 was 21.0% (95%CI 19.4, 22.7) for MSM, 5.3% (95%CI 3.3, 7.4) for non-MSM males, and 2.6% (95%CI 1.2, 4.0) for women. Among MSM, the annual prevalence of reactive syphilis tests with high RPR titre (≥1:16) peaked at 3.8% in 2009.
The burden of syphilis co-infection rose considerably among HIV-positive MSM, such that by 2009, at least 1 in 5 men had laboratory evidence of current or past infection. Interventions may be needed to boost syphilis testing to achieve goals set by guidelines even in settings with universal health care.
Syphilis; HIV co-infections; Screening and diagnosis; Epidemiology
Guidelines recommend frequent screening of men who have sex with men (MSM) for sexually transmissible infections (STIs) but few interventions have demonstrated increased testing and detection of bacterial STIs among MSM in controlled studies.
We used automated text message and email reminders generated by computer assisted self-interview (CASI) to remind MSM to retest for syphilis. We compared clinic visits, STI testing and detection rates over 12 month between men receiving reminders (reminder group) and men not offered the reminders (concurrent control group).
Men who chose 3-monthly reminders had more clinic visits (median 3 vs 1) and higher testing rates for pharyngeal gonorrhoea (67.0% vs 33.6%), rectal gonorrhoea (62.7% vs 31.1%), urethral chlamydia (67.3% vs 39.3%), rectal chlamydia (62.9% vs 31.3%), syphilis (67.0% vs 39.3%) and HIV (64.9% vs 36.7%) (all p<0.001) than concurrent controls, within 12 months after their first visit. Also, men receiving reminders had a higher combined testing rate for all the aforementioned STIs at a same visit (55.7% vs 25.5%, p<0.001) compared with concurrent controls. This association remained after adjusting for differences in characteristics between the two groups (adjusted odds ratio:1.77, 95% confidence interval:1.51-2.08). Men receiving reminders also had a higher detection rate of: rectal gonorrhoea (3.7% vs 1.2%, p = 0.001), urethral chlamydia (3.1% vs 1.4%, p = 0.027), rectal chlamydia (6.6% vs 2.8%, p<0.001), and early, latent syphilis (1.7% vs 0.4%, p = 0.008) compared with concurrent controls.
This is the first study to demonstate that a fully automated reminder system using CASI was associated with increased detection of bacterial STIs among MSM.
To compare the presence and quantity of cervicovaginal HIV among HIV seropositive women with clinical herpes, subclinical HSV-2 infection and without HSV-2 infection respectively; to evaluate the association between cervicovaginal HIV and HSV shedding; and identify factors associated with quantity of cervicovaginal HIV.
Four groups of HIV seropositive adult female barworkers were identified and examined at three-monthly intervals between October 2000 and March 2003 in Mbeya, Tanzania: (1) 57 women at 70 clinic visits with clinical genital herpes; (2) 39 of the same women at 46 clinic visits when asymptomatic; (3) 55 HSV-2 seropositive women at 60 clinic visits who were never observed with herpetic lesions; (4) 18 HSV-2 seronegative women at 45 clinic visits. Associations of genital HIV shedding with HIV plasma viral load (PVL), herpetic lesions, HSV shedding and other factors were examined.
Prevalence of detectable genital HIV RNA varied from 73% in HSV-2 seronegative women to 94% in women with herpetic lesions (geometric means 1634 vs 3339 copies/ml, p = 0.03). In paired specimens from HSV-2 positive women, genital HIV viral shedding was similar during symptomatic and asymptomatic visits. On multivariate regression, genital HIV RNA (log10 copies/mL) was closely associated with HIV PVL (β = 0.51 per log10 copies/ml increase, 95%CI:0.41–0.60, p<0.001) and HSV shedding (β = 0.24 per log10 copies/ml increase, 95% CI:0.16–0.32, p<0.001) but not the presence of herpetic lesions (β = −0.10, 95%CI:−0.28–0.08, p = 0.27).
HIV PVL and HSV shedding were more important determinants of genital HIV than the presence of herpetic lesions. These data support a role of HSV-2 infection in enhancing HIV transmissibility.
The aim of this study was to examine the effect of the 3% SPL 7013 gel (VivaGel®) on mucosal immune markers hypothesized to be associated with HIV-1 acquisition.
Phase 1, placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind clinical trial was performed in 54 young women in the U.S. and Kenya. Participants used carbopol gel with and without (placebo) SPL 7013 twice daily over 14 days. Cervical specimens were collected for cytokines, chemokines, T-cells, and dendritic cells at day (D) 0, 7, 14, and 21. A negative binomial regression model was used to assess differences between study arms.
Several mucosal immune parameters were increased in the VivaGel® arm compared to placebo. For cytokines: D 7, IL-6 (p=0.05); D 14, IFN-γ (p=0.03), IL-2 (p=0.04), IL-5 (p=0.003) and IL-10 (p=0.001) were increased. On D 7, CD8+/CD69+ T-cells tended to be increased (p<0.08); limiting analysis to visits without blood or bacterial vaginosis, these findings were stronger: at D7, CD8+/CD69+ T-cells were increased in the VivaGel® arm (p<0.005), as were CD4+/CD69+ cells (p=0.001) and CD4+/CCR5+ T-cells (p=0.01). The changes described for D7 and 14 were no longer seen at D21.
Markers associated with inflammation and epithelial damage were reversibly elevated in the VivaGel® arm compared to the placebo arm after 7–14 days of twice daily product use.
Vaginal microbicide; mucosal immune markers
Accurate program planning for populations most at risk for HIV/STI acquisition requires knowledge of the size and location where these populations can best be reached. To obtain this information for sex workers operating at 137 hotspots in the central business district (CBD) in Nairobi, Kenya, we utilized a combined mapping and capture-recapture enumeration exercise. The majority of identified hotspots in this study were bars. Based on this exercise, we estimate that 6,904 male and female sex workers (95% confidence intervals, 6690 and 7118) were working nightly in the Nairobi CBD in April 2009. Wide ranges of captures per spot were obtained, suggesting that relatively few hot spots (18%) contain a relatively high proportion of the area's sex workers (65%). We provide geographic data including relatively short distances from hotspots to our dedicated sex worker outreach program in the CBD (mean<1 km), and clustering of hotspots within a relatively small area. Given the size covered and areas where sex work is likely taking place in Nairobi, the estimate is several times lower than what would be obtained if the entire metropolitan area was enumerated. These results have important practical and policy implications for enhancing HIV/STI prevention efforts.
Various metrics for HIV burden and treatment success [e.g. HIV prevalence, community viral load (CVL), population viral load (PVL), percent of HIV-positive persons with undetectable viral load] have important public health limitations for understanding disparities.
Methods and Findings
Using data from an ongoing HIV incidence cohort of black and white men who have sex with men (MSM), we propose a new metric to measure the prevalence of those at risk of transmitting HIV and illustrate its value. MSM with plasma VL>400 copies/mL were defined as having ‘transmission risk’. We calculated HIV prevalence, CVL, PVL, percent of HIV-positive with undetectable viral loads, and prevalence of plasma VL>400 copies/ml (%VL400) for black and white MSM. We used Monte Carlo simulation incorporating data on sexual mixing by race to estimate exposure of black and white HIV-negative MSM to a partner with transmission risk via unprotected anal intercourse (UAI). Of 709 MSM recruited, 42% (168/399) black and 14% (44/310) white MSM tested HIV-positive (p<.0001). No significant differences were seen in CVL, PVL, or percent of HIV positive with undetectable viral loads. The %VL400 was 25% (98/393) for black vs. 8% (25/310) for white MSM (p<.0001). Black MSM with 2 UAI partners were estimated to have 40% probability (95% CI: 35%, 45%) of having ≥1 UAI partner with transmission risk vs. 20% for white MSM (CI: 15%, 24%).
Despite similarities in other metrics, black MSM in our cohort are three times as likely as white MSM to have HIV transmission risk. With comparable risk behaviors, HIV-negative black MSM have a substantially higher likelihood of encountering a UAI partner at risk of transmitting HIV. Our results support increasing HIV testing, linkage to care, and antiretroviral treatment of HIV-positive MSM to reduce prevalence of those with transmission risk, particularly for black MSM.
The core-group theory of sexually transmitted infections suggests that targeting prevention to high-risk groups (HRG) could be very effective. We aimed to quantify the contribution of heterosexual HRGs and the potential impact of focused interventions to HIV transmission in the wider community.
We systematically identified studies published between 1980 and 2011. Studies were included if they used dynamical models of heterosexual HIV transmission, incorporated behavioural heterogeneity in risk, and provided at least one of the following primary estimates in the wider community (a) the population attributable fraction (PAF) of HIV infections due to HRGs, or (b) the number per capita or fraction of HIV infections averted, or change in HIV prevalence/incidence due to focused interventions.
Of 267 selected articles, 22 were included. Four studies measured the PAF, and 20 studies measured intervention impact across 265 scenarios. In low-prevalence epidemics (≤5% HIV prevalence), the estimated impact of sex-worker interventions in the absence of risk compensation included: 6–100% infections averted; 0.9–6.2 HIV infections averted per 100,000 adults; 11–94% and 4–47% relative reduction in prevalence and incidence respectively. In high-prevalence epidemics (>5% HIV prevalence), sex-worker interventions were estimated to avert 6.8–40% of HIV infections and up to 564 HIV infections per 100,000 adults, and reduce HIV prevalence and incidence by 13–27% and 2–14% respectively. In both types of epidemics, greater heterogeneity in HIV risk was associated with a larger impact on the fraction of HIV infections averted and relative reduction in HIV incidence.
Focused interventions, as estimated by mathematical models, have the potential to reduce HIV transmission in the wider community across low- and high-prevalence regions. However, considerable variability exists in estimated impact, suggesting that a targeted approach to HIV prevention should be tailored to local epidemiological context.
HIV-1 is grouped phylogenetically into clades, which may impact rates of HIV-1 disease progression. Clade D infection in particular has been shown to be more pathogenic. Here we confirm in a Nairobi-based prospective female sex worker cohort (1985–2004) that Clade D (n = 54) is associated with a more rapid CD4 decline than clade A1 (n = 150, 20.6% vs 13.4% decline per year, 1.53-fold increase, p = 0.015). This was independent of “protective” HLA and country of origin (p = 0.053), which in turn were also independent predictors of the rate of CD4 decline (p = 0.026 and 0.005, respectively). These data confirm that clade D is more pathogenic than clade A1. The precise reason for this difference is currently unclear, and requires further study. This is first study to demonstrate difference in HIV-1 disease progression between clades while controlling for protective HLA alleles.
In sub-Saharan Africa, early mortality is high following initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART). We investigated 6-month outcomes and factors associated with mortality in HIV-infected adults being assessed for ART initiation and presenting with weight loss, chronic fever or diarrhea, and with negative TB sputum microscopy.
A prospective cohort study was conducted in Malawi, investigating mortality in relation to ART uptake, microbiological findings and treatment of opportunistic infection (OIs), 6 months after meeting ART eligibility criteria.
Of 469 consecutive adults eligible for ART, 74(16%) died within 6 months of enrolment, at a median of 41 days (IQR 20–81). 370(79%) started ART at a median time of 18 days (IQR 7–40) after enrolment. Six-month case-fatality rates were higher in patients with OIs; 25/121(21%) in confirmed/clinical TB and 10/50(20%) with blood stream infection (BSI) compared to 41/308(13%) in patients with no infection identified. Median TB treatment start was 27 days (IQR 17–65) after enrolment and mortality [8 deaths (44%)] was significantly higher among 18 culture-positive patients with delayed TB diagnosis compared to patients diagnosed clinically and treated promptly with subsequent culture confirmation [6/34 (18%);p = 0.04]. Adjusted multivariable analysis, excluding deaths in the first 21 days, showed weight loss >10%, low CD4 count, severe anemia, laboratory-only TB diagnosis, and not initiating ART to be independently associated with increased risk of death.
Mortality remains high among chronically ill patients eligible for ART. Prompt initiation of ART is vital: more than half of deaths were among patients who never started ART. Diagnostic and treatment delay for TB was strongly associated with risk of death. More than half of deaths occurred without identification of a specific infection. ART programmes need access to rapid point-of-care-diagnostic tools for OIs. The role of early empiric OI treatment in this population requires further evaluation in clinical trials.
There is an urgent need to improve our understanding of the mucosal immuno-pathogenesis of HIV acquisition in the female genital tract, particularly in high-risk women such as female sex workers (FSWs). Cervical biopsy samples offer technical advantages over cytobrush sampling, but there are concerns that this might increase HIV acquisition, particularly if healing is slow and/or women do not abstain from sex during healing.
Cervical biopsy samples and cervico-vaginal swabs for co-infection diagnostics, prostate specific antigen (PSA) and immune studies were collected from 59 women, including HIV seropositive and HIV-exposed seronegative (HESN) FSWs as well as lower risk women from Nairobi, Kenya. A clinical-demographic questionnaire was administered and women were instructed to avoid sexual intercourse, douching and the insertion of tampons for 14 days. All participants underwent a repeat exam to assess healing within the 14 days, and had HIV diagnostics at six months. Cervical sampling was well tolerated, and 82% of participants had healed macroscopically by 5 days. Both self-report and PSA screening suggested high levels of compliance with pre- and post-procedure abstinence. Delayed healing was associated with vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) and HESN status. At six-month follow up all low-risk and HESN participants remained HIV seronegative.
Cervical biopsy sampling is a safe and well-tolerated method to obtain cervical biopsies in this context, particularly if participants with VVC are excluded. As healing could be delayed up to 11 days, it is important to support (both financially and with rigorous counseling) a period of post-procedure abstinence to minimize HIV risk.
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.
Identifying the immune correlates of reduced susceptibility to HIV remains a key goal for the HIV vaccine field, and individuals who are HIV-exposed, seronegative (HESN) may offer important clues. Reduced systemic immune activation has been described in HESN individuals. Conversely, pro-inflammatory T cell subsets, particularly CD4+ T cells producing the cytokine IL17 (Th17 cells), may represent a highly susceptible target for HIV infection after sexual exposure. Therefore, we characterized the cellular pro-inflammatory and IL17/IL22 cytokine immune milieu in the genital mucosa and blood of HESN female sex workers (FSWs).
Methods and Results
Blinded lab personnel characterized basal and mitogen-induced gene and cytokine immune responses in the cervix and blood of HESN FSWs (n = 116) and non-FSW controls (n = 17) using qPCR and ELISA. IL17 and IL22 production was significantly reduced in both the cervix and blood of HESNs, both in resting cells and after mitogen stimulation. In addition, HESN participants demonstrated blunted production of both pro-inflammatory cytokines and β-chemokines.
Discussion and Conclusions
We conclude that HIV exposure without infection was associated with blunted IL17/IL22 and pro-inflammatory responses, both systemically and at the site of mucosal HIV exposure. It will be important for further studies to examine the causal nature of the association and to define the cell subsets responsible for these differences.
The relative roles of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in contact hypersensitivity responses have not been fully solved, and remain an important question. Using an adoptive transfer model, we investigated the role of the respective T cell subset. Magnetic bead separated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from oxazolone sensitized C57BL/6 mice were transferred into RAG−/− mice, followed by hapten challenge and analysis of inflammatory parameters at 24 hours post exposure. The CD4+ T cell recipient mice developed partial contact hypersensitivity responses to oxazolone. CD8+ T cells caused significant amplification of the response in recipients of both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells including ear swelling, type 1 inflammatory mediators, and cell killing. Unexpectedly, CD8+ T cells were not sufficient to mediate contact hypersensitivity, although abundantly present in the lymph nodes in the CD8+ T cell reconstituted mice. There were no signs of inflammation at the site of hapten exposure, indicating impaired recruitment of CD8+ T cells in the absence of CD4+ T cells. These data show that CD4+ T cells mediate contact hypersensitivity to oxazolone, but CD8+ T cells contribute with the most potent effector mechanisms. Moreover, our results suggest that CD4+ T cell function is required for the mobilization of CD8+ effector T cells to the site of hapten exposure. The results shed new light on the relative importance of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells during the effector phase of contact hypersensitivity.
It has been hypothesized that increased HIV acquisition in uncircumcised men may relate to a more thinly keratinized inner foreskin. However, published data are contradictory and potentially confounded by medical indications for circumcision. We tested the hypothesis that the inner foreskin was more thinly keratinized than the outer foreskin using tissues from 19 healthy, HIV-uninfected men undergoing routine prophylactic circumcision in Rakai, Uganda. Sections from 3 foreskin anatomic sites (inner, outer, and frenar band) were snap-frozen separately. Two independent laboratories each separately stained, imaged, and measured keratin thicknesses in a blinded fashion. There was no significant difference in keratin thickness between the inner (mean = 14.67±7.48 µm) and outer (mean = 13.30±8.49 µm) foreskin, or between the inner foreskin and the frenar band (mean = 16.91±12.42 µm). While the frenar band showed the greatest intra-individual heterogeneity in keratin thickness, there was substantial inter-individual variation seen in all regions. Measurements made by the two laboratories showed high correlation (r = 0.741, 95% CI, 0.533–0.864). We conclude that, despite inter- and intra-individual variability, keratin thickness was similar in the inner and outer foreskin of healthy Ugandan men, and that reduced keratin thickness is not likely to make the inner foreskin more susceptible to HIV acquisition.
Genital secretions collected from adult women exhibit in vitro activity against herpes simplex virus (HSV) and Escherichia coli (E. coli), but prior studies have not investigated this endogenous antimicrobial activity or its mediators in adolescent females.
Anti-HSV and anti-E.coli activity were quantified from cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) specimens collected from 20 sexually active adolescent females (15–18 years). Soluble immune mediators that may influence this activity were measured in CVL, and concentrations of Lactobacillus jensenii and crispatus were quantified by PCR from vaginal swabs. Results for adolescents were compared to those obtained from 54 healthy, premenopausal adult women. Relative to specimens collected from adults, CVL collected from adolescent subjects had significantly reduced activity against E. coli and diminished concentrations of protein, IgG, and IgA but significantly increased anti-HSV activity and concentrations of interleukin (IL)-1α, IL-6 and IL-1 receptor antagonist. Vaginal swabs collected from adolescent subjects had comparable concentrations of L. crispatus but significantly reduced concentrations of L. jensenii, relative to adult swabs.
Biomarkers of genital mucosal innate immunity may differ substantially between sexually active adolescents and adult women. These findings warrant further study and may have significant implications for prevention of sexually transmitted infections in adolescent females.
Cytotoxic CD8+ T cells (CTLs) contain virus infections through the release of granules containing both perforin and granzymes. T cell ‘exhaustion’ is a hallmark of chronic persistent viral infections including HIV. The inhibitory regulatory molecule, T cell Immunoglobulin and Mucin domain containing 3 (Tim-3) is induced on HIV-specific T cells in chronic progressive infection. These Tim-3 expressing T cells are dysfunctional in terms of their capacities to proliferate or to produce cytokines. In this study, we evaluated the effect of Tim-3 expression on the cytotoxic capabilities of CD8+ T cells in the context of HIV infection. We investigated the cytotoxic capacity of Tim-3 expressing T cells by examining 1) the ability of Tim-3+ CD8+ T cells to make perforin and 2) the direct ability of Tim-3+ CD8+ T cells to kill autologous HIV infected CD4+ target cells. Surprisingly, Tim-3+ CD8+ T cells maintain higher levels of perforin, which was mainly in a granule-associated (stored) conformation, as well as express high levels of T-bet. However, these cells were also defective in their ability to degranulate. Blocking the Tim-3 signalling pathway enhanced the cytotoxic capabilities of HIV specific CD8+ T cells from chronic progressors by increasing; a) their degranulation capacity, b) their ability to release perforin, c) their ability to target activated granzyme B to HIV antigen expressing CD4+ T cells and d) their ability to suppress HIV infection of CD4+ T cells. In this latter effect, blocking the Tim-3 pathway enhances the cytotoxcity of CD8+ T cells from chronic progressors to the level very close to that of T cells from viral controllers. Thus, the Tim-3 receptor, in addition to acting as a terminator for cytokine producing and proliferative functions of CTLs, can also down-regulate the CD8+ T cell cytotoxic function through inhibition of degranulation and perforin and granzyme secretion.
There is growing evidence of an association between low vitamin D and HIV disease progression; however, no prospective studies have been conducted among adults receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in sub-Saharan Africa.
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels were assessed at ART initiation for a randomly selected cohort of HIV-infected adults enrolled in a trial of multivitamins (not including vitamin D) in Tanzania during 2006–2010. Participants were prospectively followed at monthly clinic visits for a median of 20.6 months. CD4 T-cell measurements were obtained every 4 months. Proportional hazard models were utilized for mortality analyses while generalized estimating equations were used for CD4 T-cell counts.
Serum 25(OH)D was measured in 1103 adults 9.2% were classified as vitamin D deficient (<20 ng/ml), 43.6% insufficient (20–30 ng/mL), and 47.2% as sufficient (>30 ng/mL). After multivariate adjustment, vitamin D deficiency was significantly associated with increased mortality as compared to vitamin D sufficiency (HR: 2.00; 95% CI: 1.19–3.37; p = 0.009), whereas no significant association was found for vitamin D insufficiency (HR: 1.24; 95% CI: 0.87–1.78; p = 0.24). No effect modification by ART regimen or change in the associations over time was detected. Vitamin D status was not associated with change in CD4 T-cell count after ART initiation.
Deficient vitamin D levels may lead to increased mortality in individuals receiving ART and this relationship does not appear to be due to impaired CD4 T-cell reconstitution. Randomized controlled trials are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of vitamin D supplementation for individuals receiving ART.
We have previously demonstrated intrinsic anti-HIV activity in cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) from HIV-infected women with high CD4 counts and not on antiretroviral therapy. However, the impact of HIV disease progression on CVL innate immune responses has not been delineated.
CVL from 57 HIV-infected women not on antiretroviral therapy were collected by washing the cervicovaginal area with 10 ml of sterile normal saline. We characterized subject HIV disease progression by CD4 count strata: >500 cells/µl, 200–500 cells/µl, or <200 cells/µl of blood. To assess CVL anti-HIV activity, we incubated TZM-bl cells with HIV plus or minus CVL. Antimicrobials, cytokines, chemokines and anti-gp160 HIV IgG antibodies were measured by ELISA and Luminex.
CVL exhibited broad anti-HIV activity against multiple laboratory-adapted and transmitted/founder (T/F) viruses, with anti-HIV activity ranging from 0 to 100% showing wide variation between viral strains. Although there was broad CVL inhibition of most both laboratory-adapted and T/F virus strains, there was practically no inhibition of T/F strain RHPA.c, which was isolated from a woman newly infected via heterosexual intercourse. HIV disease progression, measured by declining CD4 T cell counts, resulted in a selective reduction in intrinsic anti-HIV activity in CVL that paralleled CVL decreases in human beta-defensin 2 and increases in Elafin and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor. HIV disease progress predicted decreased CVL anti-HIV activity against both laboratory-adapted and T/F strains of HIV. Anti-HIV activity exhibited close associations with CVL levels of fourteen cytokines and chemokines.
Amid a multifaceted immune defense against HIV-1 and other sexually transmitted pathogens, HIV disease progression is associated with selective disturbances in both CVL anti-HIV activity and specific innate immune defenses in the human female reproductive tract (FRT). Overall, these studies indicate that innate immune protection in the FRT is compromised as women progress to AIDS.
Minichromosome maintenance proteins (MCM) are highly expressed in actively replicating cells. The need for biological markers for cervical carcinoma and its precursor lesions is emerging. Our main aim was to determine the immunohistochemical expression of MCM-2 in HIV-positive and -negative dysplastic cervical specimens.
Immunohistochemical analysis of MCM-2 was performed in a total of 352 cervical TMA specimens of normal control, low-grade CIN, high-grade CIN and invasive tumor. 38 specimens were from HIV-positive women. A receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve was constructed to determine the best cutoff to diagnose high-grade CIN and invasive cervical cancer.
In the progression from normal epithelium to high-grade CIN and invasive tumor we found significant differences in the MCM-2 expression (p<0.05). Based on the ROC curve of 80% with an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.78, expression of MCM-2 to diagnose high-grade CIN and invasive tumor resulted in sensitivity of 81%, specificity of 66%, a positive predictive value (PPV) of 86% and a negative predictive value (NPV) of 57%. HIV-positive cervices revealed a decreasing expression of MCM-2 in both LGCIN and HGCIN compared with HIV-negative specimens (p<0.0001).
The present study suggests that immunohistochemical MCM-2 may not be a promising biomarker for diagnosing high-grade CIN and invasive cancer.
Although antiretroviral therapy (ART) prolongs life and reduces infectiousness, in some contexts, it has been associated with increased sexual risk taking.
Retrospective case–control study.
Nairobi-based dedicated female sex worker (FSW) clinic.
HIV-infected FSWs before and after ART initiation (n=62); HIV-infected and -uninfected control FSWs not starting ART during the same follow-up period (n=40).
Initiation of ART.
Primary outcome measures
Self-reported condom use, client numbers and sexually transmitted infection incidence over the study period (before and after ART initiation in cases).
Sexual risk-taking behaviour with casual clients did not increase after ART initiation; condom use increased and sexually transmitted infection incidence decreased in both cases and controls, likely due to successful cohort-wide HIV prevention efforts.
ART provision was not associated with increases in unsafe sex in this FSW population.
Impact of starting ART on sexual risk-taking behaviour in FSWs, which could have an important impact on HIV transmission to clients.
ART initiation was not associated with increased risk taking or sexually transmitted infection incidence.
Both of these declined over time, most likely as a result of risk reduction counselling.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Strengths include a relevant population, longitudinal follow-up and inclusion of biological measures of risk taking (sexually transmitted infection incidence).
Limitations include relatively small study groups and limited sampling time points.
HIV-1 replication depends on a delicate balance between cellular co-factors and antiviral restriction factors. Lens epithelium-derived growth factor (LEDGF/p75) benefits HIV, whereas apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing catalytic polypeptide-like 3G (APOBEC3G), tripartite motif 5alpha (TRIM5α), and tetherin exert anti-HIV activity. Expression levels of these proteins possibly contribute to HIV-1 resistance in HIV-1-exposed populations.
We used real-time PCR and flow cytometry to study mRNA and protein levels respectively in PBMC and PBMC subsets. We observed significantly reduced LEDGF/p75 protein levels in CD4+ lymphocytes of HIV-1-exposed seronegative subjects relative to healthy controls, whereas we found no differences in APOBEC3G, TRIM5α, or tetherin expression. Untreated HIV-1-infected patients generally expressed higher mRNA and protein levels than healthy controls. Increased tetherin levels, in particular, correlated with markers of disease progression: directly with the viral load and T cell activation and inversely with the CD4 count.
Our data suggest that reduced LEDGF/p75 levels may play a role in resistance to HIV-1 infection, while increased tetherin levels could be a marker of advanced HIV disease. Host factors that influence HIV-1 infection and disease could be important targets for new antiviral therapies.
Current HIV-1 antiretroviral therapy (ART) greatly reduces virus replication but does not significantly affect the viral reservoir. Raltegravir, a recently introduced integrase inhibitor, could, at least theoretically, reduce residual viremia in patients on ART and affect the viral reservoir size. The aim of this study was to assess whether switching therapy in treatment-experienced patients that were virally suppressed to a raltegravir-containing regimen reduces the size of the viral reservoir, and if such treatment leads to a change in levels of HIV 2-LTR circles in this patient group.
14 ART experienced individuals with a suppressed viral load (<50 HIV-1 RNA copies/mL plasma) at baseline (for at least 2 months) were switched to a raltegravir-containing regimen. Blood samples were taken at baseline and at ≥2 timepoints up to 48±6 weeks. Levels of total HIV-1 DNA and 2-LTR circles in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were measured using real-time PCR assays.
There was no significant change in HIV-1 total DNA levels over the study duration (p = 0.808), median slope 0.24 (conservative nonparametric 95% CI: −11.78, 26.23). Low levels of 2-LTR circles were detected in 2 patients. One had 16 copies/106 PBMCs at baseline and the other had 34 copies/106 PBMCs at week 51.
The switch to a raltegravir containing regimen was not associated with a significant change in HIV-1 total DNA levels in this cohort. There were no observed changes in the levels of HIV-1 2-LTR circles associated with raltegravir treatment initiation.