The latest research on the vaginal microbiome comes from a vulvodynia case study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Vulvodynia is defined as chronic vulvar pain lasting longer than three months with no identifiable cause and affects up to 16% of females. Symptoms include burning, rawness, pain with prolonged sitting, and itching in the genital area. While there is no known cure, treatments include medications, local anesthetics, biofeedback, and pelvic floor therapy.
In the particular case study, researchers analyzed the microbial composition of 22 women with clinically diagnosed vulvodynia and a control group of 22 asymptomatic women using high-quality pyrosequencing to evaluate bacterial diversity and phylotypes.
What they discovered was that three phyla (bifidobacterium, mycoplasma, and fenollaria) and 11 genera were significantly different in the vaginal microbial ecosystems in the case compared to the control groups, suggesting that these phyla may be potential markers associated with vulvodynia. A secondary finding of note was that the Lactobacilli population did not differ significantly between groups, with researchers noting, “symptoms of vulvodynia occur in women regardless of whether Lactobacilli are prominent or not.”
This study was the first of its kind to study the vaginal microbiome and vulvodynia in Asian women. However, researchers note there were some limitations to their study, namely the number of participants and the fact that most were postmenopausal. Owing to this, they acknowledge the need for ongoing vaginal microbiome exploration to determine vaginal flora differences in vulvodynia groups and subgroups with the intention to “ultimately improve strategies for the treatment and prevention of vulvodynia.”
Exciting pioneering studies in female reproductive health are emerging and bringing with it discoveries about the vaginal biome. As vaginal biome research continues to gain attention in the medical field, more researchers and companies are looking to microbiome sequencing and biomarkers to better improve gynecological treatments and patient outcomes.
So Yun Park, MD, PhD; Eun Sil Lee, MD, PhD; Sa Ra Lee, MD, PhD; Sung Hoon Kim, MD, PhD; and Hee Dong Chae, MD, PhD
Journal of Sexual Medicine, February 2021