HIV Risks: Researchers Found Bacteria That Increase Transmission Risk In Women

By Anne Dominguez , Jan 11, 2017 12:45 PM EST

Researchers found a type of bacteria that plays a huge role in HIV transmission. A new study suggests that women with pro-inflammatory vaginal bacteria have higher probability of infection. HIV risks increase to at least four times that those with 'healthy' vaginal bacteria.

HIV is a condition characterized by immune system failure which allows fatal infections or cancers to thrive in the body. Currently there is no treatment available to completely stop the virus, however, there are ongoing trials for vaccines. There are about 36.7 million people worldwide who are suffering from HIV as of 2015.

In a study published in the journal, Immunity, on Tuesday, Jan. 10. The researchers studied the genital samples and sequenced bacterial genes of young women in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region with prevalent HIV infection (about 66 percent of the worldwide population). They found out that those which are dominated by pro-inflammatory species of bacteria and had low Lactobacillus bacteria had higher HIV risks.

More than 900 women, ages 18-23 participated in the study. Volunteers eent to the site at least twice a week and the participants were also given lectures on HIV prevention, access to condoms and job skills trainings. The researchers said that the findings can lead to the development of more effective measures for HIV prevention.

"Seventy percent of our volunteers had diverse bacterial communities with low Lactobacillus abundance. Here we show that not only are those more diverse communities associated with higher levels of genital inflammation but also with significantly increased HIV acquisition." Douglas Kwon, senior author of the study said according to Science Daily.

Though its link to HIV risks is clearly established, the researchers are still looking up the reasons why the different vaginal microbiomes exist. They are studying the genetic components of the bacteria. Behavioral and environmental factors are also being considered.

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