Pilot Award Recipient: Kate Michel, PhD

Quantifying the vaginal microbiome-immune relationship among natural HIV controllers

Dr. Michel
January 08, 2019

An HIV cure would improve health for people living with HIV.  Finding an HIV cure is difficult as it is not known how human immune cells fight off HIV.  Not long ago, scientists found that friendly bacteria living in the mouth and gut can affect human immune cells. These friendly bacteria also affect HIV disease; however, it is not known how vaginal bacteria may affect HIV.  This study will examine women who naturally control HIV without taking HIV medicines - called HIV+ controllers.  These women will be compared to women who need HIV medicines to control HIV.  The researchers will collect vaginal fluid and blood samples to see how vaginal bacterial and immune cells act differently in HIV+ controller women.  They will then describe how immune cells and vaginal bacteria interact.  They will find out the exact vaginal bacteria in the vaginal fluid of the HIV+ controllers.  This work will help to make HIV vaccines, medications, and provide insights into ways to improve vaginal health.