Common vaginal infection may increase risk of HIV infection

Jul 31, 2008

A common vaginal infection may make women more susceptible to contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health researchers have found.

An analysis of 23 published studies, including data from more than 30,700 women from around the world, showed that women with bacterial vaginosis – the most common type of vaginosis in women of reproductive age – were more likely than others to be infected with HIV. The association between bacterial vaginosis (BV) and HIV was stronger for women without high-risk sexual behavior.

The results of this meta-analysis have been published in the peer-reviewed journal, AIDS.

"Given that bacterial vaginosis and HIV infection are both transmitted sexually, it is difficult to determine whether associations found are causal, or if there is some other reason why women with BV are more likely that others to become infected with HIV," said Jennifer S. Smith, epidemiology research assistant professor in the UNC School of Public Health. "If additional follow-up studies show that there was a relationship between BV and the risk of incident HIV infection, though, then increasing the treatment of BV could be considered for the future prevention of HIV infection."

Bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance in the type of bacteria normally found in the vagina. BV has been shown to cause gynecological and obstetrical problems including preterm delivery, pelvic inflammatory disease and upper genital tract infections.

Other research has shown that BV results in several changes in the vagina that could explain why it increases the risk of HIV, such as a depletion in a type of bacteria that are believed to play a role in defending the vagina against microorganisms including HIV, and higher pH levels that may increase the adherence and survival of the virus.

The studies analyzed by Smith and colleagues included women from the U.S., Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Gambia. Prevalence of BV in women in these countries ranged from about 11 percent to as high as 70 percent.

The analysis of data indicates that BV increases the risk of acquiring HIV by about 60 percent. The association between BV and HIV infection was weaker in high HIV-risk groups, Smith said. "That may be because women in high-risk groups have a greater risk of acquiring HIV from causes other than BV. This could be helpful information in identifying which populations would be helped most through targeted bacterial vaginosis control measures."

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Explore further: Animal study provides first evidence that gel can prevent multiple virus transmission in vagina/rectum

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

HIV+ women respond well to HPV vaccine

Apr 16, 2014

HIV-positive women respond well to a vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), even when their immune system is struggling, according to newly published results of an international clinical trial. The study's findings ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.