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Probiotics for Women's Health

Onderdonk, Andrew B. PhD

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: March 2006 - Volume 40 - Issue 3 - p 256-259

Goals The goals of this research were 2-fold: (1) to determine whether a commercially available probiotic mixture (VSL-3) could survive and grow in a continuous culture system simulating the vaginal environment and (2) to determine whether the probiotic mixture was capable of suppressing the growth of a known vaginal vault pathogen, Gardnerella vaginalis.

Background An abnormal vaginal microflora, such as that associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an important health issue for women. In addition, the association of this condition with preterm labor and delivery suggests that control of BV may impact the number of preterm births. Interventional trials with antibiotics have received mixed reviews and other interventional options, including the use of probiotics, are being considered.

Study A well-documented continuous culture system has been used to determine whether VSL-3 can survive and grow in conditions simulating a vaginal environment. In addition, the ability of VSL-3 to inhibit the growth of a known vaginal vault pathogen, G. vaginalis, has been determined.

Results The probiotic mixture was shown to survive and maintain itself within the fermentation vessel of the continuous culture system over an extended period of time. This mixture, when challenged with a known pathogen, was also shown to suppress the growth of G. vaginalis.

Conclusions It may be feasible to use probiotics as interventional therapy to suppress the growth of pathogens within the vaginal vault associated with BV.

Department of Pathology Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Reprints: Andrew Onderdonk, PhD, Channing Laboratory, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA (e-mail:

Received for publication September 20, 2005; accepted November 16, 2005

Copyright © 2006 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.