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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52992. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052992. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

In captive rhesus macaques, cervicovaginal inflammation is common but not associated with the stable polymicrobial microbiome.

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Department Immunology/Microbiology, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America.


Vaginal inoculation of rhesus macaques (RM) with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) has been used to study the biology of HIV transmission. Although the results of vaginal SIV transmission experiments could be affected by vaginal inflammation, studies to date have been conducted without regard to levels of pre-existing genital inflammation present in RM. We collected cevicovaginal secretions (CVS) from 33-36 RM during the mid menstrual cycle (day 10-20) at 2 time points approximately 8 months apart and characterized the mRNA and protein levels of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines and interferon-stimulated genes. There was extreme variability in the levels of inflammatory mediators (IFN-α, IFN-γ, IL-6, TNF, IL-1b, IP-10, MIG, IL-12 and IL-17). In most animals, the mRNA levels of the inflammatory mediators were similar in the 2 CVS samples collected 8 months apart, suggesting that genital inflammation is stable in a subset of captive female RM. At both time points the cervicovaginal microbiota had low levels of Lactobacillus and was relatively diverse with an average of 13 genera in the samples from the first time point (median 13, range 7-21) and an average of 11.5 genera in the samples from the second time point (median 11, range 5-20). Many of the macaques had similar microbiota in the samples collected 8 months apart. However, we found no correlation between specific bacterial genera and the mRNA or protein levels of the inflammatory mediators in the genital tract of RM in this study. It seems likely that results of published vaginal SIV transmission experiments in RM have been influenced by pre-existing inflammation in the animals used for the experiments.

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