Vaginal microbiome: normalcy vs dysbiosis

Arch Microbiol. 2021 Sep;203(7):3793-3802. doi: 10.1007/s00203-021-02414-3. Epub 2021 Jun 13.


It has been long understood that the vaginal microflora is crucial in maintaining a normal physiological environment for the host and its involvement is deemed indispensable for reproductive success. A global concept of normalcy vs. dysbiosis of vaginal microbiome is debatable as women of different races have a unique vaginal microflora with regional variations. Vaginal microflora is a dynamic microenvironment affected by gestational status, menstrual cycle, sexual activity, age, and contraceptive use. Normal vaginal flora is dominated by lactobacilli especially in women of European descent vs. African American women. These microbes confer the host vagina protection from potentially pathogenic microbes that may lead to urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases. Changes in the vaginal microbiota including reduced lactobacilli abundance and increased facultative and anaerobic organism populations result in bacterial vaginosis, that predisposes the host to several conditions like low birth weight and increased risk of contracting bacterial infections. On the other hand, the vaginal microbiome is also reshaped during pregnancy, with less microbial diversity with a dominance of Lactobacillus species. However, an altered vaginal microbiota with low lactobacilli abundance especially during pregnancy may result in induction of excessive inflammation and pre-term labor. Since the vaginal microbiome plays an important role during embryo implantation, it is not surprising that bacterial vaginosis is more common in infertile women and associated with reduced rates of conception. Probiotic has great success in treating bacterial vaginosis and restoring the normal microbiome in recent. This report, reviewed the relationships between the vaginal microbiome and women's reproductive health.

Keywords: Bacterial vaginosis; Infertility; Lactobacillus; Pre-term birth; Vaginal dysbiosis; Vaginal microbiome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dysbiosis* / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*
  • Pregnancy
  • Vagina* / microbiology
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial