To address an existing controversy concerning the presence of HIV-1-specific antibodies of the IgA isotype in the female genital tract secretions of highly-exposed but persistently seronegative (HEPSN) women, 41 samples of plasma and cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) fluid were distributed to six laboratories for their blinded evaluation using ELISA with 10 different HIV-1 antigens, chemiluminescence-enhanced Western blots (ECL-WB), and virus neutralization. HIV-specific IgG or IgA antibodies in plasma samples from HEPSN women were absent or detectable only at low levels. In CVL, 11/41 samples displayed low levels of reactivity in ELISA against certain antigens. However, only one sample was positive in two of five laboratories. All but one CVL sample yielded negative results when analyzed by ECL-WB. Viral neutralizing activity was either absent or inconsistently detected in plasma and CVL. Plasma and CVL samples from 26 HIV-1-infected women were used as positive controls. Irrespective of the assays and antigens used, the results generated in all laboratories displayed remarkable concordance in the detection of HIV-1-specific antibodies of the IgG isotype. In contrast, IgA antibodies to HIV-1 antigens were not detected with consistency, and where present, IgA antibodies were at markedly lower levels than IgG. Although HIV-neutralizing activity was detected in plasma of all HIV-1-infected women, only a few of their CVL samples displayed such activity. In conclusion, frequent HIV-1 sexual exposure does not stimulate uniformly detectable mucosal or systemic HIV-1-specific responses, as convincingly documented in the present blindly performed study using a broad variety of immunological assays. Although HIV-1-infection leads to vigorous IgG responses in plasma and CVL, it does not stimulate sustained IgA responses in either fluid.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases