Metabolic signatures of bacterial vaginosis

Academic Article


  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is characterized by shifts in the vaginal microbiota from Lactobacillus dominant to a microbiota with diverse anaerobic bacteria. Few studies have linked specific metabolites with bacteria found in the human vagina. Here, we report dramatic differences in metabolite compositions and concentrations associated with BV using a global metabolomics approach. We further validated important metabolites using samples from a second cohort of women and a different platform to measure metabolites. In the primary study, we compared metabolite profiles in cervicovaginal lavage fluid from 40 women with BV and 20 women without BV. Vaginal bacterial representation was determined using broad-range PCR with pyrosequencing and concentrations of bacteria by quantitative PCR. We detected 279 named biochemicals; levels of 62% of metabolites were significantly different in women with BV. Unsupervised clustering of metabolites separated women with and without BV. Women with BV have metabolite profiles marked by lower concentrations of amino acids and dipeptides, concomitant with higher levels of amino acid catabolites and polyamines. Higher levels of the signaling eicosanoid 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (12-HETE), a biomarker for inflammation, were noted in BV. Lactobacillus crispatus and Lactobacillus jensenii exhibited similar metabolite correlation patterns, which were distinct from correlation patterns exhibited by BV-associated bacteria. Several metabolites were significantly associated with clinical signs and symptoms (Amsel criteria) used to diagnose BV, and no metabolite was associated with all four clinical criteria. BV has strong metabolic signatures across multiple metabolic pathways, and these signatures are associated with the presence and concentrations of particular bacteria. IMPORTANCE Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common but highly enigmatic condition that is associated with adverse outcomes for women and their neonates. Small molecule metabolites in the vagina may influence host physiology, affect microbial community composition, and impact risk of adverse health outcomes, but few studies have comprehensively studied the metabolomics profile of BV. Here, we used mass spectrometry to link specific metabolites with particular bacteria detected in the human vagina by PCR. BV was associated with strong metabolic signatures across multiple pathways affecting amino acid, carbohydrate, and lipid metabolism, highlighting the profound metabolic changes in BV. These signatures were associated with the presence and concentrations of particular vaginal bacteria, including some bacteria yet to be cultivated, thereby providing clues as to the microbial origin of many metabolites. Insights from this study provide opportunities for developing new diagnostic markers of BV and novel approaches for treatment or prevention of BV.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • mBio  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Srinivasan S; Morgan MT; Fiedler TL; Djukovic D; Hoffman NG; Raftery D; Marrazzo JM; Fredricks DN
  • Volume

  • 6
  • Issue

  • 2