Interferon epsilon in the reproductive tract of healthy and genital herpes simplex virus‐infected pregnant women: Results of a pilot study Academic Article uri icon


  • PROBLEM: Recently characterized interferon epsilon (IFNe) protects against sexually transmitted infections, including genital herpes simplex virus (HSV), in animal models. There are no reports of IFNe in genital tract secretions of pregnant women, and data on IFNe in non-pregnant women are limited. This pilot study is the first to measure concentrations of IFNe in vaginal and cervical secretions during pregnancy and compare values between healthy and genital HSV-infected women. METHOD OF STUDY: Vaginal or cervical specimens from 30 pregnant women were obtained from the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS) repository. Cervical samples were collected during the first trimester and vaginal samples across pregnancy. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay determined concentrations of IFNe (pg/mL). Data for IFNe were log-transformed and compared by maternal demographics, clinical variables, and HSV status using t tests and linear regression. Repeated measures analysis explored trends across pregnancy. RESULTS: Among the entire cohort, first trimester concentrations of IFNe in vaginal or cervical secretions decreased as body mass index increased (β = -0.14, P = .0466). Concentrations of vaginal IFNe increased across pregnancy in HSV-infected and healthy women (P = .009). Average vaginal IFNe across pregnancy was lower in women with HSV compared to healthy women (P = .0009). CONCLUSION: Interferon epsilon increased across pregnancy, but was less abundant in women with HSV. This pilot investigation cannot make any definitive conclusions. However, animal models suggest that IFNe may protect against STIs. Thus, larger studies are required to validate expression of IFNe in the reproductive tract of pregnant women with and without genital infections.

author list (cited authors)

  • Nickodem, C., Criscitiello, M. F., Bazer, F., Abiodun‐Ojo, O., & Taylor, B. D.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • June 2018