Balance in the vaginal flora important

The researcher Juan Du at Karolinska Institutet is studying the relation of bacteria to the human papilloma virus (HPV) and how the correlation between bacteria and HPV impacts the development of cervical cancer.

Juan Du. Photo: John Sennett.
Dr Juan Du, credit: John Sennett.

Text: Fredrik Hedlund, first published in Swedish in the magazine Medicinsk Vetenskap No 3/2017

How can vaginal flora protect against illnesses?
“Bacteria can, for example, lower the pH-value, which lactobacillus do, and in this way make the environment inhospitable for other microbes which can otherwise cause bacterial vaginosis or fungus infections”.

Can microbiota also protect against deadly diseases like cancer?
“HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer. In our research group we are now studying whether specific bacteria in the vaginal flora, for example, lactobacillus can eliminate the remaining HPV infection. Now most young women are vaccinated against HPV, but only against certain types of the virus. We’re interested in better understanding how the vaginal flora impacts the ability to cure HPV type infections which are not covered by the vaccine”.

What is the ideal way of taking care of your vaginal flora?
“You should maintain good hygiene around the vulva, but allow the vaginal flora to clean the vaginal canal, it’s best at doing that. Showering the vaginal canal is not advisable. You should also pay extra attention after completing a course of antibiotics as the vaginal flora may be impacted then”.