Comparison of vaginal microbiota between women with inflammatory bowel disease and healthy controls

Ofri Bar, Leanna S. Sudhof, Laura J. Yockey, Agnes Bergerat, Nadav Moriel, Elizabeth Andrews, Ashwin N. Ananthakrishnan, Ramnik J. Xavier, Moran Yassour, Caroline M. Mitchell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The gut microbiota in patients with inflammatory bowel disease are perturbed in both composition and function. The vaginal microbiome and its role in the reproductive health of women with inflammatory bowel disease is less well described. Objective We aim to compare the vaginal microbiota of women with inflammatory bowel disease to healthy controls. Methods Women with inflammatory bowel disease enrolled in a longitudinal cohort study provided self-collected vaginal swabs. Healthy controls underwent provider-collected vaginal swabs at routine gynecologic exams. All participants completed surveys on health history, vulvovaginal symptoms and gastrointestinal symptoms, if applicable. Microbiota were characterized by sequencing the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Associations between patient characteristics and microbial community composition were evaluated by PERMANOVA and Principal Components Analysis. Lactobacillus dominance of the microbial community was compared between groups using chi-square and Poisson regression. Results The cohort included 54 women with inflammatory bowel disease (25 Ulcerative colitis, 25 Crohn s Disease) and 26 controls. A majority, 72 (90%) were White; 17 (31%) with inflammatory bowel disease and 7 (27%) controls were postmenopausal. The composition of the vaginal microbiota did not vary significantly by diagnosis or severity of inflammatory bowel disease but did vary by menopausal status (p = 0.042). There were no significant differences in Shannon Diversity Index between healthy controls and women with IBD in premenopausal participants. There was no difference in proportion of Lactobacillus dominance according to diagnosis in premenopausal participants. A subgroup of postmenopausal women with Ulcerative colitis showed a significant higher alpha diversity and a lack of Lactobacillus dominance in the vaginal microbiome. Conclusions Menopausal status had a larger impact on vaginal microbial communities than inflammatory bowel disease diagnosis or severity.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere0284709
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11 November
StatePublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 Bar et al.


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