Vaginal Health

14 June 2017

Vaginal bacteria inhibit herpes and Zika transmission

The human vagina has a wide array of bacterial species living in communities called the microbiome, and some of these might fight off diseases.

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In healthy women there are several kinds of vaginal microbiota (the microorganisms in a particular site), mostly dominated by Lactobacillus. The disruption of the vaginal microbiota may cause conditions like bacterial vaginosis.   

Vaginal bacteria that are important for a healthy vaginal system may have added benefits of inhibiting the sexually transmitted Zika virus and herpes simplex virus-2, a new study suggests.

Mix of bacteria

"The human vagina has a wide array of bacterial species living in communities called the microbiome; these are very important for a woman's health," study lead author Megan Amerson said. She's a doctoral student at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

The researchers ran a series of laboratory experiments to see how different bacterial environments affected how well the viruses survived and replicated. Amerson's team used transplanted vaginal microbiome samples from healthy donors.

Cultures with more Lactobacillus bacteria were considered the more healthy environment. Lactobacillus is normally found in the mix of bacteria in a healthy vagina, the researchers explained.

Healthy bacteria inhibit spread of STD

They found that the herpes simplex virus-2 replicated more in cultures that contained less Lactobacillus. The researchers found mixed results with the Zika virus, and they said this suggests more specific species of bacteria might affect Zika replication. Further studies are needed to determine what kind of bacterial species affect Zika, the investigators said.

Zika – a sexually transmitted disease – is transmitted primarily by the Aedes mosquitoes, which also transmit dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. According to a Health24 review, symptoms of the Zika virus include a mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, or headache – and lasts between two to seven days.

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