Vaginal Microbiome Group Initiative

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vogue

Principal Investigator: Dr. Deborah Money

Primary Contact: Zahra Pakzad, Research Coordinator, 604-875-2424 ext. 6379, zahra.pakzad@cw.bc.ca

About the study: The VOGUE study team is comprised of a diverse group of scientists and clinicians from across Canada who are using genomic methods to study the microbial ecosystem (microbiome) of the vagina in varying states of health and disease. The VOGUE research program comprises 5 sub-studies, each examining the vaginal microbiome of distinct clinical populations: healthy non-pregnant women, women living with HIV, women with recurrent vulvovaginitis, pregnant women at low risk for preterm birth, and pregnant women at high risk for preterm birth. The team is united in their goal of capitalizing on advances in genomic sequencing technology to analyze the composition, distribution, and function of vaginal microbes, and probe the links between these microbes and disease to guide the development of novel diagnostic tools and interventions to improve women’s health in Canada and around the world.

Why is this research important? The healthy vagina is host to millions of microorganisms, including many types of “good” bacteria that protect against invading pathogens, and help to promote healthy pregnancy. Until now, clinicians and scientists have had relatively unsophisticated tools at their disposal for studying this critically important ecosystem. It has only been with recent advances in genomic sequencing technology that researchers have been able to uncover and truly understand the sheer number and diversity of organisms that inhabit the vagina (the vaginal microbiome). From a single swab taken from the vagina, we are now able to sequence a section of the DNA from each type of bacteria present, and use this unique DNA “fingerprint” to identify them. As we move toward more sophisticated ways to diagnose and treat imbalances in the vaginal microbiome, this will allow us to develop more personalized and targeted interventions, in order to restore a microbiome that optimizes reproductive health in individual women. Ultimately, we hope our work will lead to significant breakthroughs in the health and well-being of women in Canada and around the world.

Study status: Recruitment is limited to the VOGUE 1B2 sub-study (women with recurrent vulvovaginitis). Recruitment for all other sub-studies is complete. Data analysis, manuscript development, and knowledge translation are ongoing.

Study results/publication:

Albert AY, Chaban B, Wagner EC, Schellenberg JJ, Links MG, van Schalkwyk J, Reid G, Hemmingsen SM, Hill JE, Money D, and the VOGUE Research Group. A study of the vaginal microbiome in healthy Canadian women utilizing cpn60-based molecular profiling reveals distinct Gardnerella subgroup community state types. PLoS One. 2015;10(8):e0135620.

Co-Investigators: Dr. Alan Bocking (University of Toronto), Dr. Sean Hemmingsen (National Research Council’s Plant Biotechnology Institute, Saskatchewan), Dr. Janet Hill (University of Saskatchewan), Dr. Gregor Reid (University of Western Ontario), Dr. Tim Dumonceaux (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon), Dr. Gregory Gloor (University  of Western Ontario), Dr. Matthew Links (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon), Dr. Kieran O’Doherty (University of Guelph), Dr. Patrick Tang (Sidra Medical and Research Center), Dr. Julie van Schalkwyk (University of British Columbia), Dr. Mark Yudin (University of Toronto).

Funded by: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Genome BC