The effects of chronic binge alcohol on the genital microenvironment of simian immunodeficiency virus-infected female rhesus macaques

AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2014 Aug;30(8):783-91. doi: 10.1089/AID.2014.0065. Epub 2014 Jul 8.


Alcohol abuse is a widespread problem among those at risk for and living with HIV and can impact transmission and disease progression. In this study we sought to use the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-macaque model to evaluate the immunological and virological changes in the genital microenvironment of females exposed to chronic alcohol. Female rhesus macaques were treated with alcohol (n=6) or isocaloric sucrose (n=6) for 3 months and then inoculated with SIVmac251. To assess the effects of chronic alcohol on SIV disease and the genital microenvironment, we quantified plasma and genital SIV levels, measured inflammatory cells in genital fluids, and characterized microbial flora by gram stains over 10 weeks post-SIV infection. Following 3 months of alcohol/sucrose treatment, significant differences were observed in the vaginal microenvironment of alcohol-treated animals as compared to controls. Microbial flora of alcohol-treated animals had decreased levels of lactobacillus morphotypes and increased levels of gram-positive cocci relative to sucrose controls. Alcohol-treated animals were also more likely to have white blood cells in vaginal fluids prior to SIV inoculation, which persisted through viral set point. Similar levels of cell-free SIV were observed in plasma and vaginal fluids of both groups, but alcohol-treated animals had a higher incidence and levels of cell-associated SIV shed in vaginal secretions. Chronic alcohol treatment negatively impacts the genital microenvironment prior to and over the course of SIV infection and may increase the risk of genital virus shedding and transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism*
  • Alcohols / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Lactobacillus / isolation & purification
  • Leukocytes / virology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Microbiota
  • Plasma / virology
  • Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Simian Immunodeficiency Virus / isolation & purification*
  • Vagina / drug effects
  • Vagina / immunology*
  • Vagina / virology*
  • Viral Load


  • Alcohols