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PLoS One. 2019 May 1;14(5):e0215945. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215945. eCollection 2019.

A novel sequencing-based vaginal health assay combining self-sampling, HPV detection and genotyping, STI detection, and vaginal microbiome analysis.

Author information

uBiome, San Francisco, CA, United States of America.
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States of America.


The composition of the vaginal microbiome, including both the presence of pathogens involved in sexually transmitted infections (STI) as well as commensal microbiota, has been shown to have important associations for a woman's reproductive and general health. Currently, healthcare providers cannot offer comprehensive vaginal microbiome screening, but are limited to the detection of individual pathogens, such as high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV), the predominant cause of cervical cancer. There is no single test on the market that combines HPV, STI, and microbiome screening. Here, we describe a novel inclusive vaginal health assay that combines self-sampling with sequencing-based HPV detection and genotyping, vaginal microbiome analysis, and STI-associated pathogen detection. The assay includes genotyping and detection of 14 hrHPV types, 5 low-risk HPV types (lrHPV), as well as the relative abundance of 31 bacterial taxa of clinical importance, including Lactobacillus, Sneathia, Gardnerella, and 3 pathogens involved in STI, with high sensitivity, specificity, and reproducibility. For each of these taxa, reference ranges were determined in a group of 50 self-reported healthy women. The HPV sequencing portion of the test was evaluated against the digene High-Risk HPV HC2 DNA test. For hrHPV genotyping, agreement was 95.3% with a kappa of 0.804 (601 samples); after removal of samples in which the digene hrHPV probe showed cross-reactivity with lrHPV types, the sensitivity and specificity of the hrHPV genotyping assay were 94.5% and 96.6%, respectively, with a kappa of 0.841. For lrHPV genotyping, agreement was 93.9% with a kappa of 0.788 (148 samples), while sensitivity and specificity were 100% and 92.9%, respectively. This novel assay could be used to complement conventional cervical cancer screening, because its self-sampling format can expand access among women who would otherwise not participate, and because of its additional information about the composition of the vaginal microbiome and the presence of pathogens.

Conflict of interest statement

All of the authors of the paper are current or past employees of uBiome, Inc. and have received stock options as well as other compensation. Some authors have patents pending in relation to this work: US Application No 15/198,818, Method and system for diagnostic testing, Application No 16/084,945, Method and system for microbiome-derived diagnostics and therapeutics for bacterial vaginosis, and Application No 16/115,542, Method and system for characterization for female reproductive system-related conditions associated with microorganisms. The data in this article were used in the development of a commercially available test product developed and marketed by uBiome. This does not alter our adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

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