Background: To date, women are most often diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis (BV) using microscopy based Nugent scoring or Amsel criteria. However, the accuracy is less than optimal. The aim of the present study was to confirm the identity of known BV-associated composition profiles and evaluate indicators for BV using three molecular methods.
Methods: Evaluation of indicators for BV was carried out by 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing of the V5-V7 region, a tailor-made 16S rRNA oligonucleotide-based microarray, and a PCR-based profiling technique termed IS-profiling, which is based on fragment variability of the 16S-23S rRNA intergenic spacer region. An inventory of vaginal bacterial species was obtained from 40 females attending a Dutch sexually transmitted infection outpatient clinic, of which 20 diagnosed with BV (Nugent score 7-10), and 20 BV negative (Nugent score 0-3).
Results: Analysis of the bacterial communities by 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing revealed two clusters in the BV negative women, dominated by either Lactobacillus iners or Lactobacillus crispatus and three distinct clusters in the BV positive women. In the former, there was a virtually complete, negative correlation between L. crispatus and L. iners. BV positive subjects showed cluster profiles that were relatively high in bacterial species diversity and dominated by anaerobic species, including Gardnerella vaginalis, and those belonging to the Families of Lachnospiraceae and Leptotrichiaceae. Accordingly, the Gini-Simpson index of species diversity, and the relative abundance Lactobacillus species appeared consistent indicators for BV. Under the conditions used, only the 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing method was suitable to assess species diversity, while all three molecular composition profiling methods were able to indicate Lactobacillus abundance in the vaginal microbiota.
Conclusion: An affordable and simple molecular test showing a depletion of the genus Lactobacillus in combination with an increased species diversity of vaginal microbiota could serve as an alternative and practical diagnostic method for the assessment of BV.
Keywords: 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing; Bacterial vaginosis; Gardnerella vaginalis; Gini-Simpson index; IS-profiling; Lactobacillus crispatus; Lactobacillus iners; Nucleotide-based microarrays; Vaginal microbiota.