The composition of the vaginal microbiota has been linked to numerous outcomes of health and disease. Women with a condition called bacterial vaginosis (BV) are at higher risk of infertility, miscarriage, placental and amniotic fluid infections, vaginal colonization by potential pathogens, and preterm birth. Cell surfaces and secreted components of mucus are decorated with abundant carbohydrates or glycans. Bacteria express glycan cleaving enzymes, glycosidases, known to feed some vaginal bacteria. The balance of glycan production and foraging may influence outcomes of pregnancy by impacting the barrier between lower and upper reproductive tract, or by influencing cell signaling or immune activation. Our researchers are studying the relationships between bacterial community structure, carbohydrate breakdown and pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth.
Picture caption: Vaginal bacteria in association with a vaginal epithelial cell (courtesy of Wandy Beatty).