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Old 21 August 2016, 01:01 AM
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Icon220 Uncovering the female body’s secret protection against HIV

[W]hen researchers announced at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, last month that they’d linked a single strain of vaginal bacteria to higher HIV rates, it seemed like they had started to make inroads against the virus in a unique way: by identifying weaknesses in the communities of bacteria that occupy the vagina—weaknesses that could open the door for HIV. But additional research out of the conference complicates that finding and highlights how far there is to go.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/...n-against-hiv/
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Old 21 August 2016, 04:51 PM
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That's kind of an odd title for an article that says in its first paragraph

Quote:
in some parts of the country, girls who are 15 today have an 80 percent chance of acquiring HIV in their lifetimes
Doesn't seem that the "female body's secret protection" is working all that well for most people.

I suppose they thought that titling it "Uncovering why some women are HIV resistant" or "Specific bacteria sometimes found in vaginas protect against HIV" wouldn't get as many clicks.

Having said that, it does look like an interesting and potentially useful line of research. But I'm puzzled by this:

Quote:
“Only humans have Lactobacillus in their vaginas,” said Cone, who has studied the microbiome for 20 years. “Humans haves the unique ability to protect against germs.”
Maybe only humans have lactobacillus in the vagina; I've no idea about that. But it seems to me highly unlikely that only human vaginas have any ability to protect against germs. Every species with vaginas, after all, has the same underlying problem to deal with: the insertion, usually the repeated insertion, into the inside of the body of a non-sterile and possibly-contaminated part of someone else's body. I can't imagine that the vagina wouldn't have developed means of protecting against this long before humans came along.
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Old 21 August 2016, 11:44 PM
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tl, I noticed those points, too. As for the lifetime likelihood of infection, I think it may be a reflecton of how women are treated and/or what they have to do to get by in those areas. As for humans being the only species with the protective lactobacillus, I wondered if it was not because humans are one of a very small number of species that are sexually active at any time, rather than during a particular window of opportunity. One would think that chimps and bonobos, which are similarly sexually active, would also have developed becoming lactobacillus hosts. Perhaps another factor is that amongst those groups, nearly all sex is within the immediate tribe, whereas humans have a very high propensity for cross-connections between groups.
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Old 22 August 2016, 12:25 AM
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You'd think the vagina would have most of the other protections that other orifices have from the germy outside. I mean just think of the amounts of bacteria and viruses we take in through our mouths everyday.
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Old 22 August 2016, 12:38 AM
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That kind of has it backwards, though, doesn't it, cd? The mouth and the nose are inputting stuff of varying degrees of cleanliness much of the day. They need the most robust protective systems. Very few women spend as much time with things entering their vaginas as they do eating and, especially, breathing.
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Old 22 August 2016, 01:51 AM
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The second quote isn't saying that only humans have that lactobacillus, though that may have been the intention. It is saying that only humans have the ability to protect against germs. It is unclear which qualifications the statement needs in order to be a true statement.
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Old 22 August 2016, 02:30 AM
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It's saying both, in two separate statements.

Quote:
“Only humans have Lactobacillus in their vaginas,”
seems clear enough.

Quote:
“Humans haves the unique ability to protect against germs.”
Leaving typos out of it, it's possible the reporter misinterpreted something, and the researcher meant that only humans have the ability to protect against specifically HIV "germs" specifically via symbiosis with lactobacillus. As the statement's given, however, it reads that only human vaginas have any ability to protect against any "germs" at all, by any method. That's what I'm doubting.

Last edited by thorny locust; 22 August 2016 at 02:32 AM. Reason: to put quotes around "germs", because that strikes me as vague terminology
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Old 22 August 2016, 03:29 AM
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I was specifically talking about the second quoted statement, as I specified. I think the first statement is clear, but the second one doesn't even specify that it's referring to vaginas. It's literally referring to "humans," only roughly half of whom even have vaginas. I'll give them that from context, but it still needs more to be a true statement. Possibly it was supposed to say "this unique ability," rather than "the," and specifically meant lactobacillus.
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Old 22 August 2016, 12:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
I was specifically talking about the second quoted statement, as I specified.
Ah.

I had actually also quoted something else entirely in the same post, [ETA: #2] and thought you were referring to the whole of the second bit that I quoted, rather than to the second half of the second statement that I quoted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
the second one doesn't even specify that it's referring to vaginas. It's literally referring to "humans," only roughly half of whom even have vaginas. I'll give them that from context, but it still needs more to be a true statement. Possibly it was supposed to say "this unique ability," rather than "the," and specifically meant lactobacillus.
If it's taken to mean 'only humans have any ability at all in any part of their bodies to protect against any disease', that makes even less sense.

Your suggestion as to what the researcher actually meant does make more sense; the problem may be in the reporting, or even in the phrasing of the reporting -- it's not clear to me whether the reporter misunderstood the researcher, or just wrote the sentence very badly; or, indeed, whether the researcher actually meant that only human vaginas have any protective ability at all, though that seems to me unlikely.
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