Microbes and Female Reproductive Health

Microbes and Female Reproductive Health

Microbes and Female Reproductive Health: Good Vs. Bad Bacteria

The female genital tract is home to a wide array of microbes that play a major role in both maintenance of health as well as the development of various diseased conditions. Is there any correlation between microbes and female reproductive health?

While some microbial flora colonized in the female genital tract form a protective mechanism and can be referred to as the “friendly” ones, the other type may produce enzymes and various other virulent factors of destructive nature, leading to life-threatening infectious diseases including malignancy.

What is the role of “friendly” microbes?
  • A healthy vaginal flora plays the role of protecting the body from urogenital infections. The vaginal flora is basically composed of numerous different kinds of bacteria (good and bad bacteria), of which Döderlein’s bacilli(or commonly known as lactobacilli) is the commonest type.
  • Researchers have repeatedly found pieces of evidence that certain parts of the vagina are dominated by Döderlein’s bacillus (Lactobacillus bacteria), which is basically the same family of friendly bacteria that are found in fermented foods like yogurt.
  • However, in cases of other parts of the reproductive tract like the mucus lining of the cervix portion of the uterus and the fallopian tubes, had only trace amounts of Döderlein’s bacillus (Lactobacillus), and a large number of bacteria of the family known as Pseudomonas.
  • These “good” bacteria are beneficial for the body and play a key role in defending against any kind of urogenital infection.
  • Lactobacillus not only provides protection against invading abnormal microbes (bad bacteria) from the external environment, but also from microbes that reside inside the vagina and tend to multiply very rapidly under specific conditions.
  • Döderlein’s bacilli also play an important role in maintaining an acidic vaginal pH between 3.8 and 4.5.
  • In a normal healthy state, the good and bad vaginal bacteria coexist in a state of equilibrium and this balance is very fragile. The shortage of lactobacilli causes elevated levels of Vaginal pH (becomes alkaline). This causes an imbalance thus providing an opportunity for the “bad” bacteria and fungi to reproduce inside the vagina and cause infection.
“Bad” microbes and their significance

Reproductive Health

The group of “bad” bacteria or not so friendly bacteria are responsible for giving rise to genital infections, under various circumstances. The most common types of genital infections encountered are as mentioned below:

  1. Bacterial Vaginosis
  • Overgrowth of a variety of bacterial species such as Gardenerella Vaginalis (most common), Bacteroids and Mycoplasma hominis causes bacterial vaginosis.
  • Characteristic features include:
  • White, thin and watery discharge
  • A fishy or musty odor
  • Accompanied by mild irritation or itching.
  1. Candida or “yeast” infections
  • Caused by Candida albicans, which flourishes in an acid medium and an abundant supply of carbohydrates. This type of infection is more common in pregnancy and diabetes.
  • Characteristic features include:
  • White discharge with thick, curdy consistency
  • Extreme vulvar itching
  • White patches adherent to the vagina which may cause bleeding on removal.
  1. Chlamydia
  • Usually a “silent” infection.
  • May lead to PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), if left untreated.
  1. Trichomonas Vaginalis
  • This sexually transmissible disease occurs in the presence of elevated vaginal pH. (5-6 as during menstrual period).
  • Characteristic features include:
  • Copious, greenish, frothy discharge
  • May be associated with a foul odor and vulvar itching
  1. Herpes Genitalis
  • Caused most commonly by Herpes Simplex Virus(HSV)
  • Symptoms usually noticeable within 7 days of sexual contact.


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