Background: Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition. We examined the association between BV and BV-associated bacteria and expression of HIV in the female genital tract.
Methods: HIV RNA, lactobacilli, Gardnerella vaginalis, and Mycoplasma hominis in cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) samples were quantified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Gynecologic evaluation included Nugent score assessment, Amsel criteria assessment, detection of other genital-tract infections, and dysplasia grading. CD4 cell count, plasma HIV RNA level, and antiretroviral history were obtained.
Results: A total of 203 CVL samples from women with Nugent scores of 7-10 (BV group) and 203 samples from women with Nugent scores of 0-3 (no-BV group) were matched by plasma HIV RNA level and analyzed. After controlling for plasma HIV RNA level and Nugent score in univariate analyses, we found that G. vaginalis and M. hominis bacterial counts, Candida vaginitis, and herpes simplex virus (HSV) were positively associated with CVL HIV RNA levels. In multivariate analysis, only lactobacilli bacterial counts (P=.006; inverse association), M. hominis bacterial counts (P=.0001; positive association), Candida vaginitis (P=.007), and HSV (P=.03) were significantly associated with CVL HIV RNA levels.
Conclusion: Bacteria associated with BV increase genital-tract HIV RNA levels. Quantitative bacterial counts for lactobacilli and M. hominis are better correlates of CVL HIV RNA than are Nugent score or Amsel criteria. Since plasma virus and CD4 cell levels did not differ between the BV and no-BV groups, these data suggest that the bacterial flora associated with BV influence genital-tract HIV shedding.