Cervicovaginal Microbiota and Reproductive Health: The Virtue of Simplicity

Cell Host Microbe. 2018 Feb 14;23(2):159-168. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.01.013.


Cervicovaginal microbiota play a critical role in women's health and reproductive outcomes. Despite being one of the simplest commensal bacterial communities in the human body, we are only beginning to appreciate its complex dynamic nature and important role in host immune modulation. In this review, we discuss the "optimal" cervicovaginal bacterial community composition, the impact of microbiota on gynecologic and obstetric outcomes, and the hurdles to developing a deeper mechanistic understanding of the function of the cervicovaginal microbiome. We then describe efforts to durably alter microbial composition in this compartment by promotion of Lactobacillus colonization with probiotics, modulation of vaginal pH, hormonal administration, and the eradication of pathogenic bacteria with antibiotics. Finally, we draw on lessons learned from the deeply investigated gut microbiome to suggest future avenues of research into host-pathogen interactions in the female genital tract.

Keywords: bacterial vaginosis; cervicovaginal microbiome; gut microbiome; lactobacillus; obstetric health; probiotics; reproductive health; vaginal microbiome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Black People
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus / growth & development*
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / microbiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Probiotics
  • Reproductive Health
  • Vagina / microbiology*
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial / microbiology*
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial / therapy
  • White People