The Human Vulvar Microbiome: A Systematic Review

Microorganisms. 2021 Dec 12;9(12):2568. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9122568.


The link between cancer and the microbiome is a fast-moving field in research. There is little knowledge on the microbiome in ((pre)malignant) conditions of the vulvar skin. This systematic review aims to provide an overview of the literature regarding the microbiome composition of the healthy vulvar skin and in (pre)malignant vulvar disease. This study was performed according to the PRISMA guidelines. A comprehensive, electronic search strategy was used to identify original research articles (updated September 2021). The inclusion criteria were articles using culture-independent methods for microbiome profiling of the vulvar region. Ten articles were included. The bacterial composition of the vulva consists of several genera including Lactobacillus, Corynebacterium, Staphylococcus and Prevotella, suggesting that the vulvar microbiome composition shows similarities with the corresponding vaginal milieu. However, the vulvar microbiome generally displayed higher diversity with commensals of cutaneous and fecal origin. This is the first systematic review that investigates the relationship between microbiome and vulvar (pre)malignant disease. There are limited data and the level of evidence is low with limitations in study size, population diversity and methodology. Nevertheless, the vulvar microbiome represents a promising field for exploring potential links for disease etiology and targets for therapy.

Keywords: cancer development; drug development; microbial targets; vaginal microbiome; vulvar microbiome.

Publication types

  • Review