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  • [Gasps] -Thank you! I made it myself.

  • -Did you? -And it has microbes on it!

  • -Oh look at them, they're so cute.

  • -I know! I like to think about which one's my favorite.

  • I think it might be this one.

  • At this very moment, there are trillions of microbes in and on your body. These bacteria, fungi,

  • viruses and more are a part of our bodies from the moment we're born, and we need

  • them. The bacteria in our gut help us digest our

  • food. The bacteria in our mouth and nose help us fight off infections.

  • Almost every part of your body has its own unique microbiome, or community of microorganisms,

  • and that includes...the vagina. And that's what I'm studying as a graduate

  • student right now! Someone should really count the

  • number of times we say 'vagina' in this video because it's gonna be...a lot.

  • -I think one of the biggest misconceptions

  • about the vaginal microbiome is that it's bad.

  • A lot of people immediately will think that microbes are not helpful to us, when in fact,

  • the vaginal microbiome is incredibly important for protecting us from invading microbes that

  • are bad. -There's an incredibly diverse microbial

  • party in there, and the party goers who take up the most space are a kind of bacteria called

  • lactobacilli. There are a bunch of different species in

  • this group, but they all have a very important jobtaking up space and keeping the place

  • acidic. These lactobacilli are producing lactic acid

  • as they live their little lives, making your vagina have a pretty low pH.

  • This acidity is a really GOOD thing because it keeps the healthy bacteria happy, and it makes it

  • harder for bad bacteria to take over. This is also actually why you may notice stains

  • or bleached areas on your underwear even after washing them

  • That natural acidity of your vaginal discharge is bleaching the pigment out of the fabric, and that's

  • totally normal and fine. I promise you're not weird.

  • In fact, this might explode your brain, but the vagina's healthy acidity has been shown

  • to decrease your risk of catching certain STIs, even lowering the likelihood of HIV

  • transmission. Althoughusing a barrier like a condom or

  • a dental dam is still absolutely necessary if you want to minimize your STI risk as much

  • as possible.

  • So maintaining that healthy community of microbes

  • and that acidic environment is really important.

  • -For instance, it's associated with things

  • like bacterial vaginosis, which affects 10% of women in the U.S. every single year recurrently.

  • -If you've ever had BV, you know the struggle. Normal vaginal discharge is a combination

  • of cells, fun stuff your microbes are producing, the microbes themselves, and cervical mucus,

  • and it will vary in texture, color, and amount throughout your cycle.

  • Usually, discharge is clear or white, and doesn't have a bad smell. But if that microbiome

  • gets upset, like if something makes it more difficult for your lactobacilli to thrive...then

  • other species of bacteria will start to move in and take over. Your discharge may change color, and

  • start to smell different, and this...is bacterial vaginosis.

  • It's an imbalance of the natural bacteria that are always there in your vagina,

  • they're just...

  • out of whack.

  • If you've experienced this, you're not alone because it's the most

  • common vaginal issue for those of us under 45.

  • Something similar is happening when you get a yeast infection. If your natural ecosystem

  • of protective bacteria has been disturbed, the yeast that naturally live in your vagina

  • then decide 'hey, now's my moment, let's multiply'.

  • The most frustrating thing is that if you take a medication for one of these problems,

  • like antibiotics to treat the BV, that same medication increases your chance of developing

  • another imbalance-driven issue, like a yeast infection.

  • It's like, can we catch a break? We have got to find other options than just

  • throwing antimicrobials at the problem.

  • Actually, pro-tip, maybe you can ask your doctor a for probiotic

  • along with traditional antibiotic treatment for BV.

  • There's also some research that using an antifungal WITH an antibiotic at the treatment

  • stage can help prevent this odious self-reinforcing cycle...but we still need to find better solutions.

  • It's truly exhausting, because SO MANY things can upset your microbes: taking antibiotics,

  • being pregnant, having sex, getting your period, using menstrual products, being on birth control...Like

  • there's so much admin that comes with a vagina!

  • But if there is one thing you take away from this video, please let it be this: you don't

  • need to wash out your vagina. I know the world might have made you feel

  • like you are bad or dirty for producing discharge or for smelling how you smell but if you do

  • something like douche, you are literally washing away all the good microbes that keep you safe

  • and healthy. You never have to wash out your vagina. It

  • cleans itself. And I know I get really worked up about this

  • stuff, but that's because this microbiome business has way bigger impacts than just

  • stuff like yeast infections, although they do suck.

  • -The vaginal microbiome is also implicated in secondary conditions. These include things

  • like preterm birth, STI acquisition, and even fertility.

  • -Yeah. That disruption of the natural vaginal microbiome, like we see with a condition like

  • BV, may increase your risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease, a condition that can

  • lead to infertility if left untreated. Microbiome imbalance can increase your risk

  • of getting HPV...and that's a big deal, because some types of HPV can lead to cancer.

  • BV during pregnancy is associated with higher risk of premature birth, which poses all kinds

  • of risks to both birthing person and baby. We need a better understanding of these microbial

  • dynamics so we can stop this from happeningthis is actually what I'm doing my master's

  • thesis research on right now.

  • And all of that doesn't even BEGIN to get

  • into stuff like urinary tract infections, which 50-60% of women will experience in their

  • lifetime. The vaginal and vulval microbiome definitely

  • affect conditions like UTIs, which also have long-term health implications, and don't

  • have great solutions.

  • Now, at this point, like me, you may be really frustrated

  • by the lack of deep understanding and effective solutions we have for issues like this, but

  • that is changing. And this is where companies like Hana's come in.

  • -We founded Juno Bio for two reasons. One is

  • that we believe that we needed to close the gender health gap as quickly as we could,

  • and that this was one of the best ways of decoding the vaginal microbiome. The second

  • reason is that to really decode the vaginal microbiome, we need data at scale and traditional

  • academic studies and the way that they're funded and run, just don't provide that scale.

  • Through the Juno study, we've built one of the world's richest and most representative

  • repositories of the vaginal microbiome.

  • -Because yeswe do see differences in microbiome

  • makeup across ethnicities and geographic areas, across different kinds of diets, and between

  • vaginas and neovaginasor vaginas that have been surgically constructed. ​

  • So companies like Juno Bio and research teams all over the worldlike the one I'm working

  • withare trying to dig deeper and generate more data about the vaginal microbiome.

  • This will let us understand how these invisible creatures work, so that people with vaginas

  • don't have to put up with conditions that the world treats as insignificant,

  • but that as we've seenactually have an oversized effect on our overall health.

  • This research could lead to exciting developments like standardization of probiotics as complimentary

  • therapy for BV; Better, more accurate screening tools to identify those at risk for preterm

  • birth; and... -vaginal microbiome transplants. So in 2019,

  • we had the first ever paper that showed that actually, if you take a vaginal microbiome

  • sample from a healthy woman, and place it into a woman who's dysbiotic, you can actually

  • cure things like intractable bacterial vaginosis.

  • Because it's not just about you. Your microbiome can affect

  • the health of your sexual partners, and if you have a child, passing through the vaginal

  • canal is that baby's introduction to its microbial world,

  • setting up its microbiome maybe for life. But you can see just how many different lives

  • and fields are impacted by and involved in this aspect of female-bodied health.

  • -We need a multidisciplinary approach and it's super important to have

  • scientists, clinicians, and the women that experience the conditions

  • associated with them all involved in decoding the vaginal microbiome.

  • And the impact that it has on our health.

  • -I feel really lucky to have found my niche in this fascinating field

  • and I'm hoping to go on to do a PhD in exactly this.

  • So if you have questions, I hope to be part of finding the answers for all of us.

  • But for now, let me leave you with

  • this. The best part about your vagina is that it's

  • really good at keeping you healthy, if you let it.

  • Say it with me: no scented products, no soap, no douching.

  • Just let it do its normal thing, and get in touch with what that normal is for you.

  • Thanks so much for watching Seeker's new series Body Language. I hope you've enjoyed this

  • video. And if there's another women's health topic you want us to cover,

  • leave us a comment.

  • I'll see you next time!

[Gasps] -Thank you! I made it myself.

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B2 microbiome vaginal vagina bacteria discharge microbial

Uncovering the Magical Microbial World of the Vagina

  • 25 3
    Summer posted on 2021/07/20
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