Immunopathogenesis of vulvo-vaginal candidiasis in human immunodeficiency virus infected women.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) is an important cause of lower genital tract infections in women. There are currently numerous clinical observations linking increased cases of symptomatic VVC to the progression of HIV epidemic. While the pathogenesis of other commonly encountered mucosal candidiasis (oral and oesophageal) in the context of HIV infection has been well studied, gaps in our knowledge remain regarding candida vaginitis. With increasing degree of immunosuppression, symptomatic VVC in HIV infected women is frequent, severe, recurrent and less responsive to conventional anti-fungal therapy. The quality of life is greatly diminished for women who experience recurrent episodes of symptomatic VVC. Furthermore, the high prevalence of HIV infected women adds to the burden of healthcare. In this study, we sought to further understand the pathogenesis of symptomatic VVC and the associated host defense mechanisms in HIV infected women. The results of this study are presented as a collection of 5 papers, 4 of which are published in peer reviewed journals, 1 is still under review. The initial chapter of this thesis, ‘Introduction and Background’, is followed by the 5 manuscripts which are grouped into 3 consecutive result chapters as follows: I. Impact of HIV on symptomatic VVC. II. Impact of symptomatic VVC on HIV RNA levels in plasma and genital secretions. III. Plasma and vaginal-associated immune responses in women with symptomatic VVC. The final chapter, ‘Discussion and Conclusions’, rounds up the thesis.