SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

Study finds HIV particles trapped more effectively by certain cervicovaginal mucus

Findings of a recent study indicating that HIV particles are more effectively trapped by the cervicovaginal mucus (CVM) in women who harbor the vaginal bacteria species Lactobacillus crispatus were published Tuesday in mBio, the open access journal of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). 

The findings could help develop ways of reducing and blocking vaginal transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

"Mucosal surfaces, such as the lung, gastrointestinal tract or female reproductive tract, are where most infections take place," University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Assistant Professor of Pharmacy and Engineering Sam Lai said. "Our bodies secrete over six liters of mucus everyday as a first line of defense."

Lai, the senior author on the study, and his collaborators wanted to see why the barrier properties of CVM varies from woman to woman and even at different times in the same woman. The study looked at CVM samples from 31 women to test whether HIV psuedovirus particles would become trapped. There were two distinct populations identified in the findings, one that is good at trapping HIV and one that is not.

"I was really surprised by how slight differences between Lactobacillus species make a very substantial difference in the barrier properties of mucus," Lai said.

Lai said that CVM could be thought of as a biological barrier that could potentially be advanced with these findings by altering the vaginal microbiota.

"If we could find a way to tilt the battle in favor of L. crispatus in women, then we would be increasing the barrier properties of their CVM, and improve protection against STIs (sexually transmitted infections)," he said.

The ASM’s mission is to gain a better understanding of basic life processes and to promote the application of this knowledge for improved health and economic and environmental well-being.

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American Society for Microbiology 1752 N St NW Washington, DC 20036

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