A citizen science approach helped produce a resource-rich map of the vaginal microbiome with associations to lifestyle and events in a woman’s life course.
A self-sampled study of 3,345 women in Belgium, called Isala, named after Belgium’s first female doctor, is designed to break societal taboos as well as provide insight into how vaginal bacteria relate to women’s health. Lactobacillus curlatus appeared to be the most abundant taxon in the healthy cohort (in 43.2% of samples), followed by Lactobacillus inert (27.7%) and Gardnerella species (9.8%). Age, motherhood, estrogen levels, and menstrual stage have emerged as strong influencing factors that shape the vaginal microbiota. Additionally, menstrual products, contraceptives, sexual activity and partner choice, and diet also appear to modulate the vaginal microbiome.
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