June 25th, 2012
Perhaps it need not be said that one vagina is not the same as the next, but medically speaking, doctors have long thought that all “healthy” vaginas had certain things in common — namely levels of some good bacteria.
But a new study led by Jacques Ravel at the University of Maryland School of Medicine reports that in fact not all women are created equal. The vaginal microbiome — the community of bacteria living in the vagina — varies considerably between women, the study found, and even within the same woman at different times.
The results, published this week in Science Translational Medicine, suggest that there may not be a single standard for a “normal” or “healthy” vaginal environment. Levels of bacteria that may signify bacterial infection in one woman may be healthy in another. The study involved 32 women who submitted vaginal bacterial swabs taken twice a week for 16 weeks.