Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2) is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted viruses and is a known risk factor for HIV acquisition in the Female Genital Tract (FGT). Previously, we found that curcumin can block HSV-2 infection and abrogate the production of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines by genital epithelial cells in vitro. In this study, we investigated whether curcumin, encapsulated in nanoparticles and delivered by various in vivo routes, could minimize inflammation and prevent or reduce HSV-2 infection in the FGT. Female mice were pre-treated with curcumin nanoparticles through oral, intraperitoneal and intravaginal routes, and then exposed intravaginally to the tissue inflammation stimulant CpG-oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN). Local intravaginal delivery of curcumin nanoparticles, but not intraperitoneal or oral delivery, reduced CpG-mediated inflammatory histopathology and decreased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines Interleukin (IL)-6, Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF-α) and Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1 (MCP-1) in the FGT. However, curcumin nanoparticles did not demonstrate anti-viral activity nor reduce tissue pathology when administered prior to intravaginal HSV-2 infection. In an alternative approach, intravaginal pre-treatment with crude curcumin or solid dispersion formulations of curcumin demonstrated increased survival and delayed pathology following HSV-2 infection. Our results suggest that curcumin nanoparticle delivery in the vaginal tract could reduce local tissue inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin delivered to the vaginal tract could potentially reduce the severity of HSV-2 infection and decrease the risk of HIV acquisition in the FGT of women.
Keywords: CpG; HSV-2; curcumin; cytokine; herpes; inflammation; nanoparticles; pathology.