A menstrual cycle pattern for cytokine levels exists in HIV-positive women: Implication for HIV vaginal and plasma shedding

Lena Al-Harthi, Andrea Kovacs, Robert W. Coombs, Patricia S. Reichelderfer, David J. Wright, Mardge H. Cohen, Jonathan Cohn, Susan Cu-Uvin, Heather Watts, Shirley Lewis, Suzanne Beckner, Alan Landay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Objectives: To evaluate the effect of the menstrual cycle in HIV-positive women on plasma and genital cytokine levels, interrelationships between vaginal and plasma cytokines, CD4 and CD8 T cell fluctuations, and genital and plasma viral loads. Methods: Plasma and cervicovaginal lavage specimens were collected from 55 HIV-positive women with CD4 cell counts < 350 cells/μl during phases of the menstrual cycle. Samples were assayed for IL-1β, IL-6, IL-4, IL-8, IL-10, TGFβ, TNFα, INFγ, MIP1α, MIP1β, RANTES, and TNFR-II using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. CD4 and CD8 T cell expression was evaluated by flow cytometry. Repeated measures regression models were used to assess the effect of the menstrual cycle on cytokines and viral load. Multivariate repeated regression models were used to assess the correlation among selected cytokines and between selected cytokines and HIV viral load. Results: Vaginal IL-1β, IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, MIP1β, RANTES, TGFβ, and TNFR-II were significantly elevated during menses but were not altered during other phases. Plasma cytokine levels were not altered during the menstrual cycle. A positive Candida culture increased vaginal IL-8 during menses, whereas vaginal discharge was associated with a reduction in vaginal IL-4, IL-10, and RANTES. CD4 and CD8 cell numbers did not vary with the menstrual cycle. Vaginal cytokine levels correlated only with vaginal viral load, in a sampling method-dependent manner. Conclusion: We provide evidence of elevated vaginal cytokine levels during menses, which appear to regulate vaginal and not plasma HIV shedding, suggesting that a menstrual cycle pattern exists for cytokine production in HIV-positive women impacting vaginal shedding of HIV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1535-1543
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Aug 17 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • HIV
  • Lymphocytes
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Viral load
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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