It is known that the microbiota that inhabits the human vagina plays a role in health and disease, with optimal vaginal microbiomes being dominated by species of Lactobacillus, with research suggesting the lactic acid produced by the bacteria protects against infections.
The study lead, Bing Ma, says that VIRGO “functions both as a central repository and a highly scalable tool for fast, accurate characterisation of vaginal microbiomes”. VIRGO could facilitate a better understanding of how the bacteria contribute to women’s health and disease as it houses close to one million genes, each annotated with the bacterium that carries it and its function. Currently, researchers are estimating that VIRGO contains over 95% of all the genes in the vaginal microbiome.
The power of the resource was demonstrated when they analysed over 1500 vaginal metagenomes, where they discovered that each bacterium is more genetically diverse than they thought, meaning that women each carry a personalised version of these bacteria. Also, they elucidated that optimal vaginal microbiota is dominated by different strains of the same species of Lactobacillus.
Dean E. Albert Reece, the Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs at UMSOM has stated that “important efforts” are underway to translate their growing understanding of human-associated microbial communities into clinical biomarkers and treatments. Meanwhile, researchers at the Institute of Genome Sciences will continue to update and expand the resource.