Franzén Boger M, Benhach N, Hasselrot T, Brand RM, Rohan LC, Wang L, McGowan I, Edick S, Ho K, Meyn L, Matoba N, Palmer KE, Broliden K, Tjernlund A
Sci Rep 13 (1) 7547 [2023-05-09; online 2023-05-09]
To reduce HIV transmission, locally applied pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) products for anorectal use will be important complements to oral and injectable PrEP products already available. It is critical to preserve an intact rectal epithelium and avoid an influx of mucosal HIV target cells with such product use. In this phase 1 clinical trial, we evaluated application of a topical rectal douche product containing Q-Griffithsin (Q-GRFT). Colorectal tissue samples were obtained via sigmoidoscopy at baseline, 1 and 24 h after single-dose exposure in 15 healthy volunteers. In situ staining for epithelial junction markers and CD4+ cells were assessed as an exploratory endpoint. A high-throughput, digitalized in situ imaging analysis workflow was developed to visualize and quantify these HIV susceptibility markers. We observed no significant differences in epithelial distribution of E-cadherin, desmocollin-2, occludin, claudin-1, or zonula occludens-1 when comparing the three timepoints or Q-GRFT versus placebo. There were also no differences in %CD4+ cells within the epithelium or lamina propria in any of these comparisons. In conclusion, the rectal epithelium and CD4+ cell distribution remained unchanged following topical application of Q-GRFT. In situ visualization of HIV susceptibility markers at mucosal sites could be useful to complement standard product safety assessments.