Vaginal microbiome transplants are helping treat bacterial vaginosis and shedding light on the importance of this intimate ecosystem in women’s health
13 February 2023
“I DON’T have to be afraid someone will smell what I smell,” says Eden. “I don’t have to be afraid to be in an intimate position. Bacterial vaginosis doesn’t manage me anymore.”
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) isn’t a problem people normally talk about, despite it being the most common vaginal condition in women and girls aged 15 to 44. Caused by a change in the balance of vaginal bacteria, it produces grey, watery discharge that smells of fish. While antibiotics can treat the problem, for the vast majority of people they offer only temporary relief before the condition returns.
Now, though, there is hope. It comes in the form of a vaginal microbiome transplant (VMT). Eden was one of the first five women in the world to receive such a transplant. The idea is simple: repopulate the unbalanced bacterial environment using fluid taken from someone with a healthy vaginal microbiome.
With early signs of success, the treatment is now being trialled on a larger group of women in the US. The hope is that such trials will lead to insights that will help the millions of people around the world who have recurrent BV.
It appears the vaginal microbiome is having a moment. Scientists have recently created the “vagina on a chip” to better understand vaginal health and conditions, there is the ongoing search for “super-donors” with the perfect vaginal environment, not to mention companies offering to test your vaginal microbiome from home. But how much do we really know about this intimate community of bacteria, viruses and fungi, and should we really be swapping it with someone else’s? …