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Stimulating An Immune Response? Oral Sex Is Associated With Less Endometritis

R Pittrof, E Sully, D C Bass, S F Kelsey, R B Ness, C L Haggerty

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Secondary analysis of the PID Evaluation and Clinical Health (PEACH) data suggests that among women presenting with signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), those who reported oral sex were less likely to have endometritis (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.5 [0.3–0.8]) than those who did not report oral sex. Adaptive immunity requires antigenic priming of the lymphatic system. As lymphatic tissue is abundant in the oropharynx, oral sex could lead to effective immune stimulation and prevent PID. To determine whether oral sex could be a protective factor for PID the relationship between self-reported oral sex and endometritis was analysed among 619 women with clinically suspected PID who participated in the PEACH study. Nearly one quarter of participants reported oral sex in the past four weeks. These women also reported a higher number of sexual partners, a new partner within the past four weeks and a higher frequency of sexual intercourse (all P < 0.03). They were more likely to smoke ( P < 0.0001), drink alcohol ( P < 0.004) and use recreational drugs ( P < 0.02). Participants reporting oral sex were significantly less likely to be black or to have a positive test for Neisseria gonorrhoeae (7.8% versus 21.6%, P = 0.001). Women who disclosed oral sex were significantly less likely to have endometritis after adjusting for race, number of partners, recent new partner, smoking, alcohol use and drug use (adjusted OR 0.5 [0.3–0.8]). This is the first paper showing a negative association between oral sex and endometritis. This may be mediated by a protective immune response in the genital tract following priming in the oropharynx. This hypothesis needs to be tested in further studies.