New vaginal microbiome paper published in British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada (BJOG)

Contribution by Elisabeth McClymont, PhD Candidate

“Different and diverse anaerobic microbiota were seen in women living with HIV with unsuppressed HIV viral load and in women with recurrent bacterial vaginosis: a cohort study in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology”

Like many parts of the body, the vagina has a microbiome (i.e. a collection of microbes that inhabit the vaginal environment). The microbiome varies from person to person but there are certain bacteria that usually predominate in the healthy state. Although we already know that the vaginal microbiome can impact health in certain ways (for example, certain bacteria can make a woman more vulnerable to HIV infection), it is important that we first characterize the vaginal microbiome in different groups of women to know how these groups differ in the normal state before moving on to determine how the microbiome further impacts health and disease.

This paper characterizes the vaginal microbiome in healthy women, women with recurrent bacterial vaginosis, and women living with HIV. Critically, we found that different types of bacteria tend to predominate in each of these groups of women when they are in a non-ideal vaginal microbiome state. Further, there was a difference in the vaginal microbiome between women living with HIV whose disease was suppressed due to medication compared to women living with HIV whose disease was not suppressed; women with unsuppressed disease had more diverse bacteria in their microbiomes, which can be a marker of a less healthy vaginal microbiome. Lastly, we found that women who smoked tended to have certain unfavorable bacteria that may cause bacterial vaginosis in their microbiomes.

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