Study of In Vivo Biofilms of the Female Genital Tract

Identification: Verstraelen, Hans


Study of In Vivo Biofilms of the Female Genital Tract
Hans Verstraelen1, Alexander Swidsinski2
1Ghent University & Ghent University Hospital, Belgium; 2Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany
Next-generation sequencing has significantly advanced our knowledge of community assembly patterns of the vaginal microbiota. Sequencing per se does however not inform on community architecture or spatial distribution of bacterial communities relative to host mucosal surfaces. A notable example of the biological significance of spatial community organization is the biofilm mode, characterized by spatially organized aggregates of bacteria surrounded by a polymer matrix, allowing sessile growth on a given surface. It is well-established for various ecological niches, that the biofilm phenotype represents a unique structure-function relationship, with emergent properties that have a profound impact on community ecology. From a clinical perspective, major hallmarks of in vivo biofilms include their marked resistance to host defense mechanisms as well as to high concentrations of antimicrobial agents even over prolonged periods of time. For over a decade, we have aimed to visualize spatial community organization of various vaginal microbiota community states. We typically perform spatial mapping of the microbiota on vaginal biopsy specimens collected to this purpose, either on desquamated vaginal epithelial cells recovered from urine sediment samples, through fluorescence-in-situ-hybridization with oligonucleotide probes that target bacterial 16S and 23S rRNA genes. A central finding to our research is that that lactobacilli, when dominant, are primarily dispersed in the cervicovaginal fluid layer in an unstructured distribution, while in case of bacterial vaginosis, Gardnerella vaginalis, and to a lesser extent, Atopobium vaginae and other taxa, constitute highly structured biofilm communities that adhere in their entirety to the vaginal epithelium, from which they may disperse.


Credits: None available.

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