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Cytokine profiles and Lactobacillus species presence in pre-menopausal subjects with genital Mycoplasma genitalium or Ureaplasma urealyticum colonization

John Garza 1 2Kushal Gandhi 1Sarah Choi 1Asley Sanchez 1Gary Ventolini 1

Womens Health (Lond) doi: 10.1177/17455065211009181.


Background and purpose: Lactobacilli play a vital role in protecting the vagina against pathogens. Cytokines are vital components of defense against infections in women. The genital mycoplasmas, Mycoplasma genitalium and Ureaplasma urealyticum, are associated with various infectious diseases in adults and infants. The objective of our study is to identify differences in cytokine profile and Lactobacillus species dominance between a study group of non-pregnant pre-menopausal women with genital M. genitalium or U. urealyticum colonization and a control group of non-pregnant pre-menopausal women without genital M. genitalium or U. urealyticum colonization.

Methods: A real-time polymerase chain reaction was performed to measure Lactobacillus species in vaginal swab samples. Cytokine analysis was performed using multiplex immunoassay techniques. Analysis of variance confirmed a significant difference in cytokine profiles between patient groups, with t-tests identifying the most significantly different cytokines. Categorical data analysis identified significant patterns of relative Lactobacillus species dominance in the study group.

Results: Lactobacillus iners was the predominant Lactobacillus species in the control group (p = 0.005). There were no dominant Lactobacillus species observed in the study group. Vascular endothelial growth factor A (p = 0.002), interleukin-8 (p = 0.001), and interleukin-1β (p = 0.049) were expressed significantly higher in the study group, whereas interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (p < 0.001), interleukin-10 (p = 0.001), interleukin-12 (p = 0.002), and interferon-γ (p = 0.022) were expressed higher in the control group. Association matrices for cytokines were significantly different between two groups (p < 0.001), with mostly negative associations in the control group and mostly positive associations in the study group.

Conclusion: Cytokine levels, their associations, and the patterns of Lactobacillus species dominance are observed to significantly diverge on the basis of M. genitalium and U. urealyticum colonization among non-pregnant pre-menopausal women.