How important is vaginal microbiome in women’s reproductive health?

Though studies have shown that there is much link between microbes and reproductive health, a larger study has now come out confirming that vaginal microbes play an important part in the women’s reproductive health.

‘mSystems’, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology published the findings. Globally, preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death for children under the age of five.

After analyzing data from a large study on pregnant women in North Carolina, researchers found that participants with a high abundance of Lactobacillus crispatus were less likely to have a pre-term birth. Researchers also classified their findings by race and found evidence for the protective effect of L. crispatus in both White and Black populations. The researchers found that protective effect of the vaginal microbiome in reducing the risk of preterm birth differs between White and Black women populations.

Lead author Shan Sun, a researcher at the University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC), said “Lactobacillus bacteria are common in the vaginal microbiome, but the specific species that dominate may affect outcomes.”


Some species are more or less protective. They found a lower abundance of L.crispatus, and a higher abundance of L.iners in the vaginal microbiome of Black women. In the gut microbiome, greater diversity is often associated with better health. But the opposite seems to be true in the vaginal microbiome. Higher diversity may dampen the protective effects of L. crispatus in Black women, but further evidence is needed to prove that hypothesis.


The new findings are based on data on 464 White women and 360 Black women enrolled in the Pregnancy, Infection, and Nutrition (PIN) Study, based at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Between 1995 and 2000, the study enrolled more than 3,000 women and compiled data on a wide range of health, environmental, and social factors. What remains unclear, is whether L. crispatus is itself protective or is a consequence of some other factor that lowers the risk for preterm birth Researchers are also hoping to use PIN data to probe the racial disparities in preterm outcomes. There’s still quite a bit to be done to describe the nature of the microbiome during pregnancy and what influences outcomes.


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