19 September 2023

New research reveals dynamic changes in the cervicovaginal microbiome during hrHPV infections

A groundbreaking research paper published in the Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal sheds light on the dynamic nature of the cervicovaginal microbiome (CVM) during high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) infections in women. The study, conducted by the research team consisting of Willem Melchers (theme Women's cancers), Mariano A. Molina, Karolina Andralojc (theme Infectious diseases and global health), in collaboration with William Leenders (Predica Diagnostics) and Martijn Huynen (CMBI), explores the long-term ecological dynamics of microbial community state types (CSTs) in the CVM and their implications for women's cervical health.

The CVM plays a crucial role in protecting the cervical epithelium from pathogens, including hrHPV. The research highlights that women with Lactobacillus-depleted communities in their CVM are at higher risk of hrHPV infection persistence and disease progression. However, the long-term dynamics of CSTs in such cases have been poorly understood until now.The study involved a longitudinal cohort of 141 women diagnosed with hrHPV infection at baseline. Cervical smears were collected at two timepoints, six months apart.

The researchers found that the long-term microbiome dissimilarity positively correlated with microbial diversity at both visits. Women with a high abundance of Lactobacillus iners at baseline exhibited more stable microbiome composition at the second visit than women with Lactobacillus-depleted communities at baseline. Specific species, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Megasphaera genomosp type 1, were associated with CST changes between visits.

These findings have important implications for potential microbiome-based therapies against hrHPV infection progression towards disease. The research suggests that certain CSTs are more stable than others over time, offering opportunities to target specific microbial communities to restore a healthy CVM. For instance, promoting the dominance of Lactobacillus species, inhibiting the growth of pathogens like Gardnerella vaginalis, and monitoring the stability of CSTs IV and III-A could be key strategies in the development of microbiome-based therapies.

The study's use of high-resolution microbiome profiling and species-level analysis provides valuable insights into the dynamic nature of the CVM during hrHPV infections. While some limitations were noted, this research contributes significantly to our understanding of the cervicovaginal microbiome's role in hrHPV infections and paves the way for potential therapies to combat these infections and prevent cervical disease.

Read the publication here

Molina, M.A., Melchers, W. J. G., Andralojc, K. M., Leenders, W. P. J., & Huynen, M. A. (2023). Longitudinal analysis on the ecological dynamics of the cervicovaginal microbiome in hrHPV infection. Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.csbj.2023.09.011

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