The Application of Molecular Methods Towards an Understanding of the Role of the Vaginal Microbiome in Health and Disease
Joanna-Lynn C. Borgogna, Carl J. Yeoman
Methods in Microbiology
The human vagina harbours one of the most ecologically interesting and important microbial ecosystems of our holobiome. The healthy human vagina is typically dominated by Lactobacillus species. Therein, vaginal lactobacilli provide the first line of protection against potential pathogens and, consequently, in the protection and maintenance of female gynecologic and reproductive health. Although much of our understanding of this system was elucidated from early studies and the application of traditional microbiological techniques, newer and more sophisticated technologies have added considerably to the depth of that understanding. Among these, molecular-based techniques have both augmented and reinforced these findings, providing a refined understanding of microbial:microbial and microbial:host interactions within the vaginal microbial ecosystem, while also providing new and important insights. Studies based upon 16S rRNA gene sequencing have enabled the vaginal microbiome of reproductive-aged women to be categorized into five major microbial community states and revealed that not all Lactobacillus spp. are equal in their maintenance of reproductive health. Further, recent genomic, proteomic, metagenomic, metabolomic, and immunological studies have provided novel insight into potential mechanisms by which various Lactobacillus species may uniquely interact with the host and contribute towards vaginal health and the mechanisms through which the system may be perturbed. Herein, we provide a comprehensive review of our contemporary understanding of the vaginal microbiota's role in maintaining female gynecologic and reproductive health, summarizing seminary findings, and highlighting where molecular techniques have improved our overall understanding of the vaginal microbiota.
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