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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The Lactobacillus flora in vagina and rectum of fertile and postmenopausal healthy Swedish women

Rita J Gustafsson1*, Siv Ahrné2, Bengt Jeppsson3, Cecilia Benoni1, Crister Olsson3, Martin Stjernquist4 and Bodil Ohlsson1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Skåne University Hospital, °Malmö, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

2 Applied Nutrition, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

3 Department of Surgery, Skåne University Hospital, °Malmö, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

4 Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Skåne University Hospital, °Malmö, Lund University, Lund Sweden

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BMC Women's Health 2011, 11:17  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-11-17

Published: 25 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Lactobacillus species are the most often found inhabitants of vaginal ecosystem of fertile women. In postmenopausal women with low oestrogen levels, Lactobacillus flora is diminishing or absent. However, no studies have been performed to investigate the correlation between oestrogen levels and the lactobacilli in the gut. The aim of the present study was to investigate the relation in healthy women between vaginal and rectal microbial flora as well as possible variations with hormone levels.

Methods

Vaginal and rectal smears were taken from 20 healthy fertile women, average 40 years (range 28-49 years), in two different phases of the menstrual cycle, and from 20 postmenopausal women, average 60 years (range 52-85 years). Serum sex hormone levels were analyzed. Bacteria from the smears isolated on Rogosa Agar were grouped by Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA and identified by multiplex PCR and partial 16S rRNA gene sequencing.

Results

Lactobacillus crispatus was more often found in the vaginal flora of fertile women than in that of postmenopausal (p = 0.036). Fifteen of 20 fertile women had lactobacilli in their rectal smears compared to 10 postmenopausal women (p = 0.071). There was no correlation between the number of bacteria in vagina and rectum, or between the number of bacteria and hormonal levels. Neither could any association between the presence of rectal lactobacilli and hormonal levels be found.

Conclusion

Lactobacillus crispatus was more prevalent in the vaginal flora of fertile women, whereas the Lactobacillus flora of rectum did not correlate to the vaginal flora nor to hormonal levels.