Current HIV/AIDS Reports

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 153–160 | Cite as

The Vaginal Microbiome and its Potential to Impact Efficacy of HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis for Women

  • Jennifer Velloza
  • Renee HeffronEmail author
The Science of Prevention (JD Stekler and J Baeten, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on The Science of Prevention


Purpose of Review

This review describes existing evidence addressing the potential modulation of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) products, specifically 1% tenofovir (TFV) gel and oral tenofovir-based PrEP, by vaginal dysbiosis and discusses future considerations for delivering novel, long-acting PrEP products to women at high risk for vaginal dysbiosis and HIV.

Recent Findings

We describe results from analyses investigating the modification of PrEP efficacy by vaginal dysbiosis and studies of biological mechanisms that could render PrEP ineffective in the presence of specific microbiota. A secondary analysis from the CAPRISA-004 cohort demonstrated that there is no effect of the 1% TFV gel in the presence of non-Lactobacillus dominant microbiota. Another recent analysis comparing oral tenofovir-based PrEP efficacy among women with and without bacterial vaginosis in the Partners PrEP Study found that oral PrEP efficacy is not modified by bacterial vaginosis. Gardnerella vaginalis, commonly present in women with vaginal dysbiosis, can rapidly metabolize TFV particularly when it is locally applied and thereby prevent TFV integration into cells. Given that vaginal dysbiosis appears to modulate efficacy for 1% TFV gel but not for oral tenofovir-based PrEP, vaginal dysbiosis is potentially less consequential to HIV protection from TFV in the context of systemic drug delivery and high product adherence.


Vaginal dysbiosis may undermine the efficacy of 1% TFV gel to protect women from HIV but not the efficacy of oral PrEP. Ongoing development of novel ring, injectable, and film-based PrEP products should investigate whether vaginal dysbiosis can reduce efficacy of these products, even in the presence of high adherence.


Pre-exposure prophylaxis Efficacy HIV prevention Vaginal dysbiosis Bacterial vaginosis Women 



We are grateful for the dedication of the thousands of women who have participated in PrEP clinical trials and open-label demonstration projects around the world.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All reported studies/experiments with human or animal subjects performed by the authors have been previously published and complied with all applicable ethical standards (including the Helsinki declaration and its amendments, institutional/national research committee standards, and international/national/institutional guidelines).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Global HealthUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of EpidemiologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.International Clinical Research CenterUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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