Comparative study of vulva and abdominal skin microbiota of healthy females with high and average BMI.

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PubMed ID: 30654751

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Vongsa R, Hoffman D, Shepard K, Koenig D

BMC Microbiol. Jan 2019. doi: 10.1186/s12866-019-1391-0

COMMENT: Obesity has shown to affect female physiology and health. The authors hypothesized that vulva and abdominal skin may be especially susceptible to body mass index (BMI)-induced alterations in biophysical properties and the microbiome structure. This study analyzed the abdominal and vulva skin microbiome of females with diferent BMI by 16S sequencing.


The aim of this study was to determine whether obesity, defined as a BMI of 30 or greater, was associated with alterations in the biophysical properties and microbiome of the vulva and abdominal skin.

Main results:

Abdominal skin microbiota was not affected by BMI status

Within the vulva (both inner and outer labia), women with normal BMI had a statistically higher abundance of Lactobacillus, while Corynebacterium and Anaerococcus were more prevalent in high BMI women.

It is important to note that while differences in the vulvar microbiome were correlated to BMI, there are other potential factors that could influence the microbiome state that were not controlled for in this study like ethnicity and diet.

Upon analysis of the communities’ metabolic patterns using PICRUSt, decreased glycolysis/gluconeogenesis was observed among high BMI subjects, which implies a change in the carbon source available to the consortia.


Increase in skin pH and decrease in Lactobacillus predominance associated with high BMI.

Data suggest that adding carbon/nitrogen sources that are directly utilizable by Lactobacillus and not by other members of the community may help to sustain the vulvar microbiome in a more Lactobacillus-dominant state.


Diana López-Farfán