Bacteria found in female upper reproductive tract, once thought sterile
They’re inside our gut, on the skin, and in the mouth. Thousands of different types of micro-organisms live in and on the body, playing helpful roles in digestion or in aiding the body’s natural defense system. Now, scientists at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have found tiny organisms living in the upper female reproductive tract, an environment they said was once thought to be sterile.
In a preliminary finding (abstract 5568) presented Monday, June 6, at the 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago, researchers revealed they have found bacteria in the ovaries and in the fallopian tubes. And with an additional finding that women with ovarian cancer have a different bacterial makeup, researchers are asking whether these tiny organisms could play a role in cancer development or progression.
“This is a place essential to the beginning of life – you don’t expect that it’s a place that’s teeming with bacteria,” said Wendy R. Brewster, MD, PhD, a UNC Lineberger member, an associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and director of the UNC Center for Women’s Health Research. “But there are bacteria in chemical pits at the bottom of the ocean, so why not in the fallopian tubes? Our proof of principle study has determined that while the upper female reproductive tract certainly isn’t teeming with bacteria, there are bacteria present.”