Reproductive hormones are known to impact innate mucosal immune function of the lower genital tract. Our objectives were to determine the effect of hormonal status on intrinsic anti-viral (HSV-1, HSV-2 and HIV-1) activity of cervicovaginal lavage (CVL).
CVL was collected from165 asymptomatic women which included post-menopausal women (n=29), women not on contraception in the days 1-14 (n=26) or days 15-28 (n=27) of the menstrual cycle, and women using the levonogerestrol intrauterine device (n=28), depomedroxyprogesterone acetate (n=28) or combined oral contraceptives (n=27). The anti-HSV-1/-2 and the anti-HIV-1 activity of the CVL were measured using plaque assays and the Jurkat-Tat-CCR5 assay, respectively.
CVL from all of the groups had modest anti-viral activity. Anti-HIV-1 activity was decreased in CVL from postmenopausal women when compared to premenopausal women (11% vs. 34%, p=0.002). However there was no difference in anti-HIV-1 activity among premenopausal women regardless of phase of menstrual cycle or contraceptive use. Anti-HIV-1 activity was associated with the protein content of the CVL (r=0.44, p<0.001). There was no difference in anti-HSV-1 or -2 activity by hormonal group.
Menopause is associated with decreased innate HIV-1 activity in the lower genital tract, suggesting that factors in the vaginal fluid could play a role in increased susceptibility of HIV-1 infection in postmenopausal women. Hormonal contraceptive use, menopause and phase of menstrual cycle did not have a measurable impact on the intrinsic anti-HSV-1 or -2 activity.