We sought to investigate the effects of HIV infection on the vaginal microbiota and associations with treatment and demographic factors. We thus compared vaginal microbiome samples from HIV-infected (HIV+) and HIV-uninfected (HIV−) women collected at two Chicago area hospitals.Design:
We studied vaginal microbiome samples from 178 women analyzed longitudinally (n = 324 samples) and collected extensive data on clinical status and demographic factors.Methods:
We used 16S rRNA gene sequencing to characterize the bacterial lineages present, then UniFrac, Shannon diversity, and other measures to compare community structure with sample metadata.Results:
Differences in microbiota measures were modest in the comparison of HIV+ and HIV− samples, in contrast to several previous studies, consistent with effective antiretroviral therapy. Proportions of healthy Lactobacillus species were not higher in HIV− patients overall, but were significantly higher when analyzed within each hospital in isolation. Rates of bacterial vaginosis were higher among African-American women and HIV+ women. Bacterial vaginosis was associated with higher frequency of HIV+. Unexpectedly, African-American women were more likely to switch bacterial vaginosis status between sampling times; switching was not associated with HIV+ status.Conclusion:
The influence of HIV infection on the vaginal microbiome was modest for this cohort of well suppressed urban American women, consistent with effective antiretroviral therapy. HIV+ was found to be associated with bacterial vaginosis. Although bacterial vaginosis has previously been associated with HIV transmission, most of the women studied here became HIV+ many years before our test for bacterial vaginosis, thus implicating additional mechanisms linking HIV infection and bacterial vaginosis.