Cytokine and immunoglobulin concentrations in cervical secretions: reproducibility of the Weck-cel collection instrument and correlates of immune measures

J Immunol Methods. 1999 May 27;225(1-2):131-43. doi: 10.1016/s0022-1759(99)00037-x.


Elucidation of local immune response at the cervix is important for understanding and evaluating STD vaccine approaches currently being proposed. However, no well-validated method exists for the collection of cervical secretions for evaluation of cervical immune response. The purpose of this study was to determine the reproducibility of the Weck-cel sponge used to collect cervical secretions for immunological assessment. Additionally, it was possible to examine correlates of immunity as part of our investigation. Two cervical secretion specimens were collected sequentially from each of 120 women using Weck-cel sponges. Cervical secretions were collected prior to Pap smear sampling to avoid blood contamination. At the laboratory, the duplicate specimens were weighed and tested in replicate wells to determine the concentration of two cytokines (IL-10 and IL-12) and two immunoglobulin isotypes (IgG and IgA). IL-12, total IgG, and total IgA showed a strong correlation between samples from the same woman ranging from 0.78 to 0.84. Kappa coefficients obtained after categorizing assay results ranged from 0.62 to 0.67. Variance components analysis suggested that 69% to 85% of the variance observed was accounted for by between-women variance, with the remaining variability attributed to variation between samples collected from the same woman. IL-10 results were less reproducible than those obtained from the other assays examined, suggesting problems with the assay used to measure this cytokine rather than with the Weck-cel sampling instrument. Various factors were found to significantly correlate with cytokine and immunoglobulin measures at the cervix. Age and reproductive status were associated with all four immune measures; women over 50 years of age and those who were postmenopausal had increased concentrations of IL-10, IL-12, IgG, and IgA. Hemoglobin concentrations were positively correlated with IgG and IL-10 concentrations, but not with IgA or IL-12 concentrations, suggesting local production of IgA and IL-12. The concentration of all immune measures decreased with increasing volume of collection. No significant association was observed between time from collection to freezing of specimens and concentrations of cytokines or immunoglobulins. Overall, our data suggest that measurement of immunological parameters in cervical secretions collected using Weck-cel sponges are reproducible. In addition, various correlates of cytokine and immunoglobulin concentrations were identified.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cervix Mucus / chemistry
  • Cervix Mucus / immunology
  • Cervix Uteri / chemistry
  • Cervix Uteri / immunology*
  • Cervix Uteri / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / analysis*
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis*
  • Interleukin-10 / analysis*
  • Interleukin-12 / analysis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Time Factors


  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interleukin-12