When it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), some female hormones are protective while others make women more susceptible. A study in mice published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that estradiol (E2) exerts its protective effect against herpes virus by shifting the immune response in the vaginal mucosa toward a more effective antiviral one.
Many studies have shown that injectable contraceptives containing progestins may increase a woman’s risk of being infected with HIV and with HSV-2, the virus causing genital herpes. On the other hand, estradiol, another hormone that is present during the normal menstrual cycle and contained in oral contraceptives, has been shown to be protective. To minimize unintended negative consequences of hormonal contraception, understanding how different hormones affect susceptibility to STI pathogens is important.
Estradiol mediated enhancement of anti-viral CD4 T cell immunity in vaginal mucosa
Image Credit: Anipindi et al.