Hydrogen Peroxide–Producing Lactobacilli Are Associated With Lower Levels of Vaginal Interleukin-1β, Independent of Bacterial Vaginosis

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Volume 42, Issue 7, p.358 - 363 (2015)


Background: The presence of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-producing lactobacilli in the vagina is associated with decreased rates of preterm birth and HIV acquisition. We hypothesize that this is due to immunomodulatory effects of these species. Methods: Concentrations of interleukin (IL)-1 beta, IL-6, IL-8, secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor, and human beta-defensin 2 were quantified from vaginal swabs from 4 groups of women: women with and without bacterial vaginosis (BV) by Nugent score, further stratified by detection of H2O2-producing lactobacilli by semiquantitative culture. Ten quantitative polymerase chain reaction assays characterized the presence and quantity of select Lactobacillus and BV-associated species in each group. Levels of immune markers and bacteria were compared between the 4 groups using analysis of variance, Kruskal-Wallis, Mann-Whitney U, or chi(2) tests. Results: Swabs from 110 women from 4 groups were included: 26 had a normal Nugent score (BV-), and no H2O2-producing lactobacilli detected (H2O2-); 47 were BV-, H2O2+; 27 BV+, H2O2-; and 10 BV+, H2O2+. The groups were similar in age, marital status, and reproductive history, but not ethnicity: the BV-, H2O2- group had more white participants (P = 0.02). In women with and without BV, IL-1 beta was lower in the H2O2+ groups. Human beta-defensin 2 was lowest in BV+ H2O2- women and highest in BV-, H2O2-. Secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor was lower in women with BV and did not differ by the presence of H2O2-producing lactobacilli. In regression analysis, higher quantities of Lactobacillus crispatus were associated with lower quantities of IL-1 beta. Detection and quantity of BV-associated species by quantitative polymerase chain reaction was significantly different between women with and without BV, but not between women with and without H2O2-producing lactobacilli within those groups. Conclusions: The presence of H2O2-producing lactobacilli is associated with lower levels of some vaginal proinflammatory cytokines, even in women with BV.