Background: Women living with HIV and co-infected with bacterial vaginosis (BV) are at higher risk for transmitting HIV to a partner or newborn. It is poorly understood which bacterial communities constitute BV or the normal vaginal microbiota among this population and how the microbiota associated with BV responds to antibiotic treatment.
Methods and findings: The vaginal microbiota of 132 HIV positive Tanzanian women, including 39 who received metronidazole treatment for BV, were profiled using Illumina to sequence the V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Of note, Gardnerella vaginalis and Lactobacillus iners were detected in each sample constituting core members of the vaginal microbiota. Eight major clusters were detected with relatively uniform microbiota compositions. Two clusters dominated by L. iners or L. crispatus were strongly associated with a normal microbiota. The L. crispatus dominated microbiota were associated with low pH, but when L. crispatus was not present, a large fraction of L. iners was required to predict a low pH. Four clusters were strongly associated with BV, and were dominated by Prevotella bivia, Lachnospiraceae, or a mixture of different species. Metronidazole treatment reduced the microbial diversity and perturbed the BV-associated microbiota, but rarely resulted in the establishment of a lactobacilli-dominated microbiota.
Conclusions: Illumina based microbial profiling enabled high though-put analyses of microbial samples at a high phylogenetic resolution. The vaginal microbiota among women living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa constitutes several profiles associated with a normal microbiota or BV. Recurrence of BV frequently constitutes a different BV-associated profile than before antibiotic treatment.