3 years ago

Neisseria gonorrhoeae co-infection exacerbates vaginal HIV shedding without affecting systemic viral loads in human CD34+ engrafted mice

Danila Leontyev, Stacey X. Xu, Rupert Kaul, Scott D. Gray-Owen
HIV synergy with sexually transmitted co-infections is well-documented in the clinic. Co-infection with Neisseria gonorrhoeae in particular, increases genital HIV shedding and mucosal transmission. However, no animal model of co-infection currently exists to directly explore this relationship or to bridge the gap in understanding between clinical and in vitro studies of this interaction. This study aims to test the feasibility of using a humanized mouse model to overcome this barrier. Combining recent in vivo modelling advancements in both HIV and gonococcal research, we developed a co-infection model by engrafting immunodeficient NSG mice with human CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells to generate humanized mice that permit both systemic HIV infection and genital N. gonorrhoeae infection. Systemic plasma and vaginal lavage titres of HIV were measured in order to assess the impact of gonococcal challenge on viral plasma titres and genital shedding. Engrafted mice showed human CD45+ leukocyte repopulation in blood and mucosal tissues. Systemic HIV challenge resulted in 104−105 copies/mL of viral RNA in blood by week 4 post-infection, as well as vaginal shedding of virus. Subsequent gonococcal challenge resulted in unchanged plasma HIV levels but higher viral shedding in the genital tract, which reflects published clinical observations. Thus, human CD34+ stem cell-transplanted NSG mice represent an experimentally tractable animal model in which to study HIV shedding during gonococcal co-infection, allowing dissection of molecular and immunological interactions between these pathogens, and providing a platform to assess future therapeutics aimed at reducing HIV transmission.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191672

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