In recent years there has been a lot of talk about intestinal microbiota and how our intestine, our “belly”, is actually ours second brain. Now, under the magnifying glass of science, there is another microbiota, equally important: that vaginal.
The focus: keeping the vaginal microbiota in balance in the various stages of life is a first step to positively contribute to the physiological health of the vagina and improve its immune system.
All this is the subject of research carried out byUniversity of Catania and supported by Uriach Italy, a company active in the nutraceutical sector, sul Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus TOM 22.8, to verify the potential probiotic effect of the strain through an in vitro and in vivo evaluation.
In fact, it has been shown that alterations in the microbiota can lead to vaginal dysbiosis, that is to alterations of the microbiotic component, with a reduction of lactobacilli and an increase of both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria to which fungal infections may overlap.
The most frequent is the candida vaginal with an incidence of 75%, a purely female fungal infection, which occurs following an excessive growth, in the vagina, of some fungal species.
Several factors can compromise the efficiency of the defense mechanisms responsible for controlling the proliferation of Candida albicans in the female genitals and thus contribute to the development of dysbiosis: the improper use of antibiotics, poor intimate hygiene or use of poor quality intimate cleansers, sharing and using towels and underwear with an infected person, pregnancy, immunosuppression, diabetes, and unprotected sex.
The research was based on an initial set of 400 strains isolated from the vaginal ecosystem of healthy women of childbearing age, among which Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus TOM 22.8 was chosen and isolated for its interesting probiotic properties. To this end, the functional properties and safety of the strain were then thoroughly analyzed.
Subsequently, the latter showed: a broad spectrum antagonistic activity against the main vaginal pathogens, ability to adhere to both the vaginal and intestinal walls, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, indicating good probiotic characteristics.
Based on both clinical and microbiological parameters, oral administration of the strain resulted in a reduction of symptoms after 10 days of recruitment and a restoration of eubiosis for up to 30 days after the end of the treatment.
Therefore, the Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus TOM 22.8 strain has been deposited with the German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures (DSMZ) and can be integrated into good eating and hygiene habits, such as supplement to assist in maintaining the balance of the vaginal microbiotic flora.
But we investigated with the doctor Antonio Cianci, Full Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the University of Catania and one of the scientists employed in the research, to better understand what the vaginal microbiota consists of and how to take care of it.
After the intestinal microbiota, here is the vaginal one: what exactly is a microbiota? Are the two related?
«By vaginal microbiota we mean the set of microorganisms that colonize the vagina, represented for over 90% by lactobacilli and, in small percentage, by other species of both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and fungi. The microbiota of the female reproductive tract is able to interact with the intestine through direct diffusion mechanisms ».
Does the vaginal microbiota change with age? That is, is a teen’s microbiota different from that of an adult or menopausal woman?
«The composition of the vaginal microbiota is subject to the influence of various physiological factors capable of inducing qualitative / quantitative modifications of the resident species. Some of these factors may be related to age and fluctuations in estrogen levels that normally occur throughout life. More specifically, both in prepubertal age and in menopause the levels of estrogen are very low, these conditions determine the establishment of a microbiota poor in lactobacilli, while in fertile age the lactobacilli represent the predominant species, representing over 90% in physiological conditions “.
And does it change in pregnancy?
“In pregnancy, the high levels of circulating estrogen are related to a composition of the vaginal microbiota dominated by lactobacilli. However, the state of immunosuppression typical of pregnancy facilitates the development of Candida. Vulvo-vaginal candidiasis is one of the most common forms of vaginitis, second in frequency only to bacterial vaginosis. From an epidemiological point of view, about 70-75% of women experience a vulvo-vaginal Candida infection at least once in their life and about 40% of these will relapse within the year».
Probiotics and microbiota: do they really work? What is your experience on this?
«Probiotics are the ideal treatment for the correction of vaginal dysbiosis provided that specific probiotics with the ability to produce acidifying substances are used, capable of inhibiting the growth of candida and other bacteria. In addition, other important properties are the ability to produce a biofilm, which by layering on the vagina prevents adhesion by pathogenic bacteria. Our experience with the use of the probiotic TOM 22.8 has produced extremely satisfactory results in the treatment of dysbiosis with remission of symptoms and efficacy tested both from a clinical and microbiological point of view ».
Tell us better what the TOM 22.8 probiotic is for …
«The treatment of mixed bacterial and mycotic vaginitis that today we call vaginal dysbiosis must aim at restoring the normal vaginal microbiota through the administration of lactobacilli. Lactobacilli are the ideal treatment for vaginal dysbiosis as long as the best strains are used, i.e. those capable of carrying out the most effective defense actions through the acidification of the vaginal environment that makes it unfavorable to the growth of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. Furthermore, the biofilm they produce protects the vaginal walls and hinders the replication of fungi. Today again very often dysbiosis is treated using antibiotics or antifungals with many failures, because the microorganisms have developed a lot of resistance and because the infections are superimposed (bacterial and fungal together). The use of lactobacilli, in particular the TOM strain 22.8, both in therapy for the treatment of vaginitis, and in prophylaxis to prevent viral infections and sexually transmitted diseases in general, constitutes the best way for a woman’s sexual and reproductive health “.
In conclusion, how can the vaginal microbiota be taken care of? That is, how to do prevention, in general?
“The hygienic – behavioral rules useful for preserving the state of equilibrium of the vaginal microbiota are:
– avoid frequent washing and neutral pH soaps which alter the normal vaginal pH facilitating the development of opportunistic pathogens.
– avoid prolonged use of tight-fitting clothing and synthetic materials or panty liners which alter the vaginal temperature and reduce the availability of oxygen favoring the development of anaerobes.
– avoid inappropriate antibiotic intakei which damage the microbiota, inhibiting the development of lactobacilli.
– favor a Mediterranean diet with adequate consumption of yogurt and dairy products to maintain a normal microbiota ».