Cervicovaginal fluid and semen block the microbicidal activity of hydrogen peroxide produced by vaginal lactobacilli
1 Mucosal Protection Laboratory, Thomas C. Jenkins Department of Biophysics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
2 ReProtect, Inc., Baltimore, MD 21286, USA
BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:120 doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-120Published: 19 May 2010
H2O2 produced by vaginal lactobacilli is believed to protect against infection, and H2O2-producing lactobacilli inactivate pathogens in vitro in protein-free salt solution. However, cervicovaginal fluid (CVF) and semen have significant H2O2-blocking activity.
We measured the H2O2 concentration of CVF and the H2O2-blocking activity of CVF and semen using fluorescence and in vitro bacterial-exposure experiments.
The mean H2O2 measured in fully aerobic CVF was 23 ± 5 μM; however, 50 μM H2O2 in salt solution showed no in vitro inactivation of HSV-2, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Hemophilus ducreyii, or any of six BV-associated bacteria. CVF reduced 1 mM added H2O2 to an undetectable level, while semen reduced 10 mM added H2O2 to undetectable. Moreover, the addition of just 1% CVF supernatant abolished in vitro pathogen-inactivation by H2O2-producing lactobacilli.
Given the H2O2-blocking activity of CVF and semen, it is implausible that H2O2-production by vaginal lactobacilli is a significant mechanism of protection in vivo.