Objective: To assess the vaginal microbiome throughout full-term uncomplicated pregnancy. Methods: Vaginal swabs were obtained from twelve pregnant women at 8-week intervals throughout their uncomplicated pregnancies. Patients with symptoms of vaginal infection or with recent antibiotic use were excluded. Swabs were obtained from the posterior fornix and cervix at 8-12, 17-21, 27-31, and 36-38 weeks of gestation. The microbial community was profiled using hypervariable tag sequencing of the V3-V5 region of the 16S rRNA gene, producing approximately 8 million reads on the Illumina MiSeq. Results: Samples were dominated by a single genus, Lactobacillus, and exhibited low species diversity. For a majority of the patients (n = 8), the vaginal microbiome was dominated by Lactobacillus crispatus throughout pregnancy. Two patients showed Lactobacillus iners dominance during the course of pregnancy, and two showed a shift between the first and second trimester from L. crispatus to L. iners dominance. In all of the samples only these two species were identified, and were found at an abundance of higher than 1% in this study. Comparative analyses also showed that the vaginal microbiome during pregnancy is characterized by a marked dominance of Lactobacillus species in both Caucasian and African-American subjects. In addition, our Caucasian subject population clustered by trimester and progressed towards a common attractor while African-American women clustered by subject instead and did not progress towards a common attractor. Conclusion: Our analyses indicate normal pregnancy is characterized by a microbiome that has low diversity and high stability. While Lactobacillus species strongly dominate the vaginal environment during pregnancy across the two studied ethnicities, observed differences between the longitudinal dynamics of the analyzed populations may contribute to divergent risk for pregnancy complications. This helps establish a baseline for investigating the role of the microbiome in complications of pregnancy such as preterm labor and preterm delivery.
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