Vaginal microbes present the primary barrier to the invasion and outgrowth of pathogenic and potentially pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Disruptions of the typically dominant vaginal lactobacilli are associated with numerous biomedically important diseases, and increased risks of sexually transmitted infections (STI). Understanding the mechanism(s) underpinning disruption of vaginal lactobacilli has been limited due to the lack of a physiologically relevant animal model. Recently, we found that we can replicate human vaginal microbial communities within germ free mice. The current application seeks funding to further develop and optimize this model, and produce SOP for the collection and storage of human specimens.
The vaginal microbiome is well regarded as one of the most important factors in maintaining vaginal health. An advanced understanding of the role various vaginal microbes play in disease has been hampered by the lack of a model that reflects the unique microbial composition of the human vagina. Using germ-free mice, we have shown we can stably recreate the human vaginal microbiome and keep single strain inoculants viable for at least 5 days. We need to determine the optimal protocols to produce the most accurate model of the human vaginal microbiome and establish storage conditions so human samples can be used to seed these models. These studies will provide an important and optimized model system that will lead to substantial advances in our understanding of the vaginal microbiomes role in vaginal health.