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PLoS One. 2013 May 22;8(5):e63514. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063514. Print 2013.

Association of the vaginal microbiota with human papillomavirus infection in a Korean twin cohort.

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Department of Environmental Health and Institute of Health and Environment, School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most important causative agent of cervical cancers worldwide. However, our understanding of how the vaginal microbiota might be associated with HPV infection is limited. In addition, the influence of human genetic and physiological factors on the vaginal microbiota is unclear. Studies on twins and their families provide the ideal settings to investigate the complicated nature of human microbiota. This study investigated the vaginal microbiota of 68 HPV-infected or uninfected female twins and their families using 454-pyrosequencing analysis targeting the variable region (V2-V3) of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene. Analysis of the vaginal microbiota from both premenopausal women and HPV-discordant twins indicated that HPV-positive women had significantly higher microbial diversity with a lower proportion of Lactobacillus spp. than HPV-negative women. Fusobacteria, including Sneathia spp., were identified as a possible microbiological marker associated with HPV infection. The vaginal microbiotas of twin pairs were significantly more similar to each other than to those from unrelated individuals. In addition, there were marked significant differences from those of their mother, possibly due to differences in menopausal status. Postmenopausal women had a lower proportion of Lactobacillus spp. and a significantly higher microbiota diversity. This study indicated that HPV infection was associated with the composition of the vaginal microbiota, which is influenced by multiple host factors such as genetics and menopause. The potential biological markers identified in this study could provide insight into HPV pathogenesis and may represent biological targets for diagnostics.

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