Investigation of the microbiota of the reproductive tract in women undergoing a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy

When sampling the human reproductive tract in its entirety, evidence of bacterial colonization was recovered throughout the female reproductive tract and among patients.

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Volume 107, Issue 3, Pages 813–820


Shana M. Miles, M.D., Ph.D., Britney L. Hardy, B.S., D.Scott Merrell, Ph.D.



To conduct a pilot study to investigate the possible presence of bacteria throughout the female reproductive tract and to make a preliminary assessment of whether there are differences in the composition of the microbial communities between these body sites and/or between patients.


Prospective pilot study followed by 16S amplification and high-throughput sequencing.


Tertiary care military hospital.


A total of 10 women underwent a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy; tissue samples were collected from the vagina, resected cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.



Main Outcome Measure(s)

Microbial composition of samples within patients and between body sites.


The microbial composition of each sample was characterized by amplification and sequencing of the V1-V3 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Bacteria were identified in 95% of the samples; the remaining 5% of samples showed no evidence of bacterial 16S rRNA. The microbial communities present at each anatomical location were highly related across the samples and across the patients. The Firmicutes phylum was highly abundant as was the Lactobacillus genus.


This study is the first global evaluation of the distribution of bacteria throughout the female reproductive tract in its entirety. Bacteria were detected by 16S sequencing from anatomical sites including the fallopian tubes and ovaries. The microbial profiles were closely related regardless of which body site or patient the samples originated from. The results of this trial will serve as the basis for future work correlating the colonization of the female reproductive tract with both obstetric and gynecologic conditions.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.