Role of sex hormones and the vaginal microbiome in susceptibility and mucosal immunity to HIV-1 in the female genital tract
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While the prevalence of Human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) infection has stabilized globally, it continues to be the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. The majority of new infections are transmitted heterosexually, and women have consistently been found to be more susceptible to HIV-1 infection during heterosexual intercourse compared to men. This emphasizes the need for a deeper understanding of how the microenvironment in the female genital tract (FGT) could influence HIV-1 acquisition. This short review focuses on our current understanding of the interplay between estrogen, progesterone, and the cervicovaginal microbiome and their immunomodulatory effects on the FGT. The role of hormonal contraceptives and bacterial vaginosis on tissue inflammation, T cell immunity and HIV-1 susceptibility is discussed. Taken together, this review provides valuable information for the future development of multi-purpose interventions to prevent HIV-1 infection in women.
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