In vivo rectal mucosal barrier function imaging in a large-animal model by using confocal endomicroscopy: Implications for injury assessment and use in HIV prevention studies

Gracie Vargas, Kathleen Vincent, Yong Zhu, David Szafron, Tyra Caitlin Brown, Paula Patricia Villarreal, Nigel Bourne, Gregg Milligan, Massoud Motamedib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Injury occurring on the surface of the rectal mucosal lining that causes defects in barrier function may result in increased risk for transmission of infection by HIV and other pathogens. Such injury could occur from microbicidal or other topical agents, mechanical trauma during consensual or nonconsensual intercourse, or inflammatory conditions. Tools for evaluation of rectal mucosal barrier function for assessing the mucosa under these conditions are lacking, particularly those that can provide in vivo structural and functional barrier integrity assessment and are adaptable to longitudinal imaging. We investigated confocal endomicroscopy (CE) as a means for in vivo imaging of the rectal epithelial barrier in the ovine model following spatially confined injury to the surface at a controlled site using a topical application of the microbicide test agent benzalkonium chloride. Topical and intravenous (i.v.) fluorescent probes were used with CE to provide subcellular resolution imaging of the mucosal surface and assessment of barrier function loss. A 3-point CE grading system based on cellular structure integrity and leakage of dye through the mucosa showed significant differences in score between untreated (1.19 ± 0.53) and treated (2.55 ± 0.75) tissue (P <0.0001). Histological grading confirmed findings of barrier compromise. The results indicate that CE is an effective means for detecting epithelial injury and barrier loss following localized trauma in a large-animal model. CE is promising for real-time rectal mucosal evaluation after injury or trauma or topical application of emerging biomedical prevention strategies designed to combat HIV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4600-4609
Number of pages10
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology
  • Infectious Diseases

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