Estradiol enhances anti-viral CD4+ tissue-resident memory T cell responses following mucosal herpes simplex virus 2 vaccination through an IL-17-mediated pathway.

A new study by recent MIRC graduate, Dr. Puja Bagri, alongside Dr. Charu Kaushic has been published in the Journal of Virology. The study defines the impacts of estradiol on adaptive immune responses to genital mucosal infection with HSV-2. Estrogen, administered widely as a hormone contraceptive to women has been implicated as protective against sexually transmitted infections such as HSV-2. Dr. Bagri finds that following intranasal immunization of HSV-2 virus, estradiol heightens CD4+ and CD8+ T cell memory responses, not only in the nasal lymph nodes, but also enhances CD4+ resident memory cells in the female reproductive tract. These responses are sufficient to protect mice against subsequent lethal HSV-2 infection in the female genital tract.

Currently, no vaccine or treatment exists for HSV-2 infections, despite being a highly prevalent infection with potential implications on fertility and lethal transmission to newborns. These findings reveal an immunological mechanism behind estrogen’s protective function to infection, and highlight its potential use in future vaccine development for HSV-2 that may also extend to other sexually transmitted infections.