The objective of this proposal is to study effects of a contraceptive vaginal ring (CVR) on vaginal bacteria in women with and without HIV, and cervical HIV shedding in HIV-infected women, and relates these changes to key measures of soluble mucosal host immune defense. We will build on limited data suggesting a favorable effect of CVR on vaginal bacteria, which comprise a critical first line of defense against infectio with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI).
In Aim 1, we will determine the effect of the CVR on vaginal bacteria, including incident and persistent BV. The goal is to study whether sustained vaginal delivery of estrogen promotes healthy vaginal populations of desirable LB, and thus reduces risk of incident and persistent BV. Women with BV will be enrolled and assessed monthly for two months to collect bacterium-specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays for key lactobacilli and BV- associated bacteria (BVAB). They will initiate CVR after two months and will return monthly over 4 subsequent months for assessment. qPCR results will be used to determine how concentrations of vaginal bacteria change in presence of absence of CVR. We hypothesize that CVR use will be associated with favorable vaginal change assessed by clinical status, Nugent score, and BVAB qPCR.
In Aim 2, we will measure key parameters of the soluble mucosal host immune response and endocervical immune cell populations with CVR use, including restoration of protective immune mediators that are decreased in the setting of BV such as SLPI, defensins, lactoferrrin, and endogenous antimicrobial activity, and reduction in pro-inflammatory cytokines and the number of activated T-cells in the endocervix. Endocervical swabs, cytobrushes and cervicovaginal lavage will be collected at each visit and concentrations of mediators and antimicrobial activity against E. coli, HIV and HSV-2 measured.
In Aim 3, we will evaluate HIV shedding prior to and after establishment of the CVR in a subset of women enrolled in the above procedures who are HIV-infected and not on antiretroviral therapy (CD4>350). We hypothesize that CVR use will promote a desirable Lactobacillus- predominant, non-inflammatory vaginal environment with reduced frequency and quantity of genital HIV shedding, thereby contributing to a reduction of HIV transmission risk.
Limited data suggesting a favorable effect of the contraceptive vaginal ring (CVR) on vaginal bacteria, which comprise a critical first line of defense against infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI). The goal is to study whether sustained vaginal delivery of estrogen promotes healthy vaginal populations of desirable vaginal bacteria (specific species of lactobacilli), and thus reduces risk of incident an persistent bacterial vaginosis (BV). Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common cause of vaginitis and increases women's risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and risk of HIV acquisition. The etiology of BV is unclear, and BV frequently recurs. We will use our molecular tools and novel immunologic assays to study whether CVR use will promote a healthy vaginal environment, thereby contributing to a reduction of HIV transmission risk.