Women and their Microbiota
Balance in the microbiotas – the collections of microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses) that live in the human body – is essential for good health. The Biocodex Microbiota Institute, an expert in research and distribution of advances in the field, regularly releases themed dossiers on its website www.biocodexmicrobiotainstitute.com.
The themed dossier “Women and their Microbiota,” published at the end of March, details the latest developments in microbiota research in women. Recent scientific publications have provided new data on the involvement of the vaginal microbiota in certain women’s predisposition to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), conception, healthy babies, and the postpartum onset of precancerous lesions in HIV-positive women.
SOME WOMEN ARE PREDISPOSED TO CONTRACT STIS
TRUE. The risk of sexually transmitted infections is based in part on the health of the vaginal microbiota. A recent Dutch study proved that some women, whose vaginal microbiota is not balanced, have a higher risk of infection. According to the researchers, imbalance in the vaginal flora weakens the barrier formed by the vaginal mucosa and leads to inflammation of the vaginal walls, which makes HIV infection more likely. These women can reduce their risk of STIs by tending their microbial flora.
THE COMPOSITION OF THE VAGINAL MICROBIOTA HAS NO AFFECT ON THE CHANCES OF CONCEPTION
FALSE. The vaginal microbiota is involved in conception, both natural and via in vitro fertilization (IVF). The presence of certain bacteria in the female reproductive tract is associated with a lower success rate, while treatment for an imbalanced microbiota (common in infertile women) improves chances of success. Success also depends on the proportion of certain bacteria in the male sexual fluids.
THE VAGINAL MICROBIOTA INFLUENCES THE HEALTH OF THE BABY DURING PREGNANCY
TRUE.The baby’s immune and metabolic systems are predetermined during its time in the uterus, through its exposure to maternal microbes present in the placenta and amniotic fluid. Other factors can come into play that affect the baby’s microbiota; the mother’s use of antibiotics (particularly starting in the second trimester) is associated with an increased risk of infant obesity, as is Caesarean section due to the lack of contact between the baby and the maternal vaginal microbiota.
AFTER BIRTH, AN HIV-POSITIVE WOMAN HAS THE SAME LIKELIHOOD OF DEVELOPING PRECANCEROUS CERVICAL LESIONS AS AN HIV-NEGATIVE WOMAN
FALSE. Like HIV-negative women in the same time period, HIV-positive women show significant bacterial diversity. Recent scientific data show that the immunodeficiency caused by HIV and imbalance in the vaginal microbiota are suspected to be involved in the onset of precancerous lesions.
IN CASES OF OSTEOPOROSIS, ONLY HORMONAL TREATMENTS OR COMBINATIONS OF CALCIUM AND VITAMIN D ARE EFFECTIVE
FALSE. According to a Chinese study, combining probiotics with isoflavones – substances that naturally occur in some vegetables, particularly soy and red clover – could represent an effective, low-risk therapeutic alternative to treat osteoporosis. They mimic certain mechanisms of action used by estrogens and counter others; in addition to limiting problems associated with menopause, they also protect against breast cancer.
THERE IS A MAMMARY MICROBIOTA AND ITS COMPOSITION DIFFERS IN WOMEN WITH BREAST CANCER
TRUE. Recent research has generated evidence of a microbiota in mammary tissue, and its composition – more precisely, the abundance or lack of certain bacterial families – differs depending on whether the woman has breast cancer. Moreover, the intestinal microbiota in these women also varies according to the stage of the cancer. Researchers are now seriously considering whether alterations in the intestinal microbiota may be a starting point for breast cancer.