Concomitant Imbalances of Systemic and Mucosal Immunity Increase HIV Acquisition Risk

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2020 May 1;84(1):85-91. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000002299.


Background: We previously reported association of increased cervical RANTES and decreased secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) with higher risk of HIV acquisition in reproductive-age women. We now examine the interaction of concomitantly altered systemic and cervical immunity on such risk.

Methods: We measured immune biomarkers in 4390 cervical and 2390 paired serum specimens at quarterly visits in 218 HIV seroconverters and 784 seronegative women. We assessed proinflammatory (IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, MIP-3α, and RANTES), anti-inflammatory (IL-1RA and SLPI), vascular activation (vascular endothelial growth factor and Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1) and defensin (BD2) cervical biomarkers and systemic (peripheral blood) C reactive protein (CRP), IL-6, IL-7, and sCD14 as indicators of immune dysregulation. Biomarker levels were Box-Cox transformed and odds ratios for HIV acquisition calculated based on top quartile or higher/lower than median levels for all HIV-negative visits.

Results: Subsequent HIV acquisition was associated with 5 of 14 individual biomarkers: low systemic CRP [odds ratio (OR) = 1.49, 1.21-1.83] and IL-6 (OR = 1.23, 1.00-1.51), high cervical BD-2 (OR = 1.33, 1.11-1.58) and RANTES (OR = 1.20, 1.01-1.43), and low cervical IL-1RA (OR = 0.65, 0.48-0.86). Low systemic CRP concomitant with altered cervical immunity, especially high BD2, conveyed highest HIV risk (1.63, 1.29-2.05). Additional markers of increased risk emerged when low systemic CRP coincided with: low systemic IL-6 and IL-7 (OR = 1.53, 1.18-1.97); high cervical IL-8 and MIP-3α (OR = 1.40, 1.07-1.83); high cervical IL-1β and IL-6 (OR = 1.43, 1.09-1.86); or low cervical SLPI (OR = 1.36, 1.08-1.71).

Conclusions: Changes in both peripheral and mucosal immunity may precede and predispose women to HIV infection. Suppressed systemic immunity (ie, low CRP) alone or in combination with imbalanced cervical innate immunity (high proinflammatory and low anti-inflammatory mediators) indicated increased vulnerability to infection. Understanding these combined effects on HIV susceptibility is essential to preventing new infections.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cervix Uteri / immunology
  • Cervix Uteri / metabolism
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Immunity, Mucosal*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Uganda
  • Young Adult
  • Zimbabwe


  • Biomarkers