Candida

New contraceptive vaginal ring does not increase risk of vaginal infections

The Nuvaring, a type of vaginal ring.

The Nuvaring, a type of vaginal ring.

A newly developed contraceptive device that consists of a vaginal ring that is meant to be used for an entire year is currently under development.  As part of this device’s safety trials the scientists who developed the device monitored how it would impact the vaginal microbiome.  The vaginal microbiome is critical to vaginal health, and certain changes to the vaginal flora are associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, and other vaginal diseases.  Implanting devices will certainly affect the vaginal microbiome, but fortunately, the scientists determined that the device did not increase the likelihood of getting a vaginal microbiome-mediated disease.  They published their results last week in PLoS ONE.

The vaginal microbiomes of 120 women using the device were measured over the course of a year.  There were no significant increase in the rates of BV over the course of the year.  In addition, the levels of Lactobacilli, which are associated with a healthy vagina, and Gardnerella vaginalis, which has been associated with BV, remained relatively unchanged over the course of treatment.  In addition, measurements on the actual surface of the vaginal ring matched the overall vagina quite well in terms of microbial colonization. In both cases, Lactobacilli dominated.

Any fluid or device inserted into the vagina should be considered for its effect on the vaginal microbiome, for example, douching is associated with BV.  Fortunately, this safety study showed that the vaginal ring did not increase rates of disease, so women out there using a vaginal ring for contraception need not be too concerned that their ring is negatively impacting their vaginal health.

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The views expressed in the blog are solely those of the author of the blog and not necessarily the American Microbiome Institute or any of our scientists, sponsors, donors, or affiliates.

Fungi associated with enterocolitis for those with Hirschsprung's disease

Plot of the fungal populations in the stool of children without enterocolitis (left), and those with enterocolitis (right).  Notice the substantially larger population of  Candida,  and  Candida albicans  in the population with enterocolitis.

Plot of the fungal populations in the stool of children without enterocolitis (left), and those with enterocolitis (right).  Notice the substantially larger population of Candida, and Candida albicans in the population with enterocolitis.

Hirschsprung's disease (HD) occurs when an infant is born without ganglion cells in their colon.  The result is that the portion of the colon that lacks these cells cannot relax and pass stool.  It is normally treated surgically by bypassing this portion of the colon with a normally functioning part of the colon.  Unfortunately, around 25% of patients that undergo this procedure eventually get enterocolitis (i.e. colon infection), which can be life threatening. 

Researchers have long believed there to be a bacterial cause for this type of Hirschsprung's associated enterocolitis (HAEC), however the connection has remained elusive.  Researchers, primarily from Cedars-Sinai, published the results of a study this week that suggests fungi, not bacteria, are primarily responsible for causing HAEC.  They published their results in the journal PLoS ONE.

The researchers developed a cohort of seventeen children that suffered from HD as an infant, and who had surgery to correct it.  Eight of these children developed HAEC, while the other nine remained healthy.  The researchers took stool samples from each of the children and measured their bacterial and fungal populations.  Surprisingly to the researchers, there was no statistical difference in the abundance of various bacteria between the two groups.  However, there was a much different story with the fungi.  The normal HD patients had a higher diversity of fungi than the HAEC patients.  In addition, HAEC patients were dominated by Candida species, while the others were not.  Moreover, an average of 90% of the Candida was Candida albicans, a pathogenic fungus that we have written about on the blog in the past.

The scientists were not able to say whether or not Candida albicans was responsible for causing the enterocolitis in these patients, however they do suggest it as a possibility.  To that end, they suggest that perhaps antifungals, rather than antibiotics, should be used to combat HAEC, especially given the fact that antibiotics can lead to ‘blooms’ in fungal species.  We often discuss the importance of all the aspects of the microbiome beyond just the bacteriome (bacteria), such as the virome (viruses), and mycobiome (fungi), and this paper shows another example of why these various ‘omes’ should not be neglected during microbiome research.

Please email blog@MicrobiomeInstitute.org for any comments, news, or ideas for new blog posts.

The views expressed in the blog are solely those of the author of the blog and not necessarily the American Microbiome Institute or any of our scientists, sponsors, donors, or affiliates.