Comparative analysis of vaginal microbiota sampling using menstrual cups and high vaginal swabs in pregnant women living with HIV-1 infection

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2023 May 9;13:1190160. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2023.1190160. eCollection 2023.


BACKGROUND: Menstrual cups (MCs) are increasingly used to collect cervicovaginal secretions to characterise vaginal mucosal immunology, in conjunction with high vaginal swabs (HVS) for metataxonomics, particularly in HIV transmission studies. We hypothesised that both methods of collecting bacterial biomass are equivalent for 16S rRNA gene sequencing.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Cervicovaginal fluid (CVF) samples from 16 pregnant women with HIV-1 (PWWH) were included to represent the major vaginal bacterial community state types (CST I-V). Women underwent sampling during the second trimester by liquid amies HVS followed by a MC (Soft disc™) and samples were stored at -80°C. Bacterial cell pellets obtained from swab elution and MC (500 µL, 1 in 10 dilution) were resuspended in 120 µL PBS for DNA extraction. Bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed using V1-V2 primers and were analysed using MOTHUR. Paired total DNA, bacterial load, amplicon read counts, diversity matrices and bacterial taxa were compared by sampling method using MicrobiomeAnalyst, SPSS and R.

RESULTS: The total DNA eluted from one aliquot of diluted CVF from an MC was similar to that of a HVS (993ng and 609ng, p=0.18); the mean bacterial loads were also comparable for both methods (MC: 8.0 log10 16S rRNA gene copies versus HVS: 7.9 log10 16S rRNA gene copies, p=0.27). The mean number of sequence reads generated from MC samples was lower than from HVS (MC: 12730; HVS:14830, p=0.05). The α-diversity metrices were similar for both techniques; MC Species Observed: 41 (range 12-96) versus HVS: 47 (range 16-96), p=0.15; MC Inverse Simpson Index: 1.98 (range 1.0-4.0) versus HVS: 0.48 (range 1.0-4.4), p=0.22). The three most abundant species observed were: Lactobacillus iners, Lactobacillus crispatus and Gardnerella vaginalis. Hierarchical clustering of relative abundance data showed that samples obtained using different techniques in an individual clustered in the same CST group.

CONCLUSION: These data demonstrate that despite sampling slightly different areas of the lower genital tract, there was no difference in bacterial load or composition between methods. Both are suitable for characterisation of vaginal microbiota in PWWH. The MC offers advantages, including a higher volume of sample available for DNA extraction and complimentary assays.

PMID:37228662 | PMC:PMC10204588 | DOI:10.3389/fcimb.2023.1190160


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