The vaginal mucosa hosts a community of commensal, symbiotic, and sometimes pathogenic microorganisms. An accumulating amount of evidence shows that the bacteria within this community, also referred as the vaginal microbiota, play an important role in protecting the vaginal tract from pathogenic infection, which can have far-reaching consequences on a woman’s sexual and reproductive health. Several vaginal microbiota compositions have been described, including those dominated by Lactobacillus iners, Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus jensenii, and those that are not dominated by a single bacterial species but rather consist of a highly diverse community of anaerobic bacteria, including Gardnerella vaginalis and members of the bacterial families of Lachnospiraceae, Leptotrichiaceae and Prevotellaceae. In particular, microbiota that are dominated by L. crispatus are associated with vaginal health, whereas microbiota consisting of diverse anaerobes – commonly referred to as vaginal dysbiosis – has been shown to increase a woman’s odds for developing bacterial vaginosis, acquiring sexual transmitted diseases, and having adverse pregnancy outcomes. At the lab for systems biology we characterize the vaginal microbiota and human isolates of Lactobacillus crispatus in a variety of experimental settings with the aim to identify bacterial and human genetic and phenotypic characteristics pertaining to the successful domination of these lactobacilli. Accordingly, we aim to understand the transition from adverse to beneficial bacterial communities and vice versa that colonize the epithelium of the human vagina.
Schematic representation of the vaginal environment with either a Lactobacillus-dominated (LVM) or dysbiotic vaginal microbiota (DVM). Taken from Van der Veer, Hertzberger et al. and Kort (2019) Comparative genomics of human Lactobacillus crispatus isolates reveals genes for glycosylation and glycogen degradation: Implications for in vivo dominance of the vaginal microbiota. Microbiome 7, 49 https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-019-0667-9.
 Sybesma W, Molenaar D, van IJcken W, Venema K, Kort R. (2013) Genome instability in Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. Appl Environ Microbiol. 79:2233-9.
 van der Veer C, Hertzberger RY, Bruisten SM, Tytgat HLP, Swanenburg J, de Kat Angelino-Bart A, Schuren F, Molenaar D, Reid G, de Vries H, Kort R. (2019) Comparative genomics of human Lactobacillus crispatus isolates reveals genes for glycosylation and glycogen degradation: implications for in vivo dominance of the vaginal microbiota. Microbiome. 2019 7:49.
 Kort R, Caspers M, van de Graaf A, van Egmond W, Keijser B, Roeselers G. (2014) Shaping the oral microbiota through intimate kissing. Microbiome. 2:41.
 Atukunda P, Muhoozi GKM, van den Broek TJ, Kort R, Diep LM, Kaaya AN, Iversen PO, Westerberg AC. (2019) Child development, growth and microbiota: follow-up of a randomized education trial in Uganda. J Glob Health. 9:010431.
 Wacoo AP, Atukunda P, Muhoozi G, Braster M, Wagner M, Broek TJVD, Sybesma W, Westerberg AC, Iversen PO, Kort R. (2020) Aflatoxins: Occurrence, Exposure, and Binding to Lactobacillus Species from the Gut Microbiota of Rural Ugandan Children. Microorganisms 8 pii: E347.
 Kort R, Westerik N, Mariela Serrano L, Douillard FP, Gottstein W, Mukisa IM, Tuijn CJ, Basten L, Hafkamp B, Meijer WC, Teusink B, de Vos WM, Reid G, Sybesma W. (2015) A novel consortium of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Streptococcus thermophilus for increased access to functional fermented foods. Microb Cell Fact. 14:195.
 Parker M, Zobrist S, Donahue C, Edick C, Mansen K, Hassan Zade Nadjari M, Heerikhuisen M, Sybesma W, Molenaar D, Diallo AM, Milani P, Kort R. (2018) Naturally Fermented Milk From Northern Senegal: Bacterial Community Composition and Probiotic Enrichment With Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Front Microbiol. 9:2218.
 Mpofu A, Linnemann AR, Sybesma W, Kort R, Nout MJ, Smid EJ. (2014) Development of a locally sustainable functional food based on mutandabota, a traditional food in southern Africa. J Dairy Sci. 97:2591-9.
 Mukisa, IM, Byakika, S, Meeme, R, Wacoo AP, Sybesma W, Kort R. (2019) Adopting traditional fermented foods as carriers for probiotics: The case of Obushera and Lactobacillus rhamnosus yoba. Nutrition and Food Science, 50: 841-852.
 Wacoo AP, Mukisa IM, Meeme R, Byakika S, Wendiro D, Sybesma W, Kort R. (2019) Probiotic Enrichment and Reduction of Aflatoxins in a Traditional African Maize-Based Fermented Food. Nutrients. 11. pii: E265.
 Agamennone V, Krul CAM, Rijkers G, Kort R. (2018) A practical guide for probiotics applied to the case of antibiotic associated diarrhea in The Netherlands. BMC Gastroenterol. 18:103.
 Marco ML, Heeney D, Binda S, Cifelli CJ, Cotter PD, Foligné B, Gänzle M, Kort R, Pasin G, Pihlanto A, Smid EJ, Hutkins R. (2017) Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 44:94-102.
 Westerik, N., Nelson, A, Wacoo, AP, Sybesma W., and Kort R (2020) A comparative interrupted times series on the health impact of probiotic yoghurt consumption among schoolchildren from three to six years old in Southwest Uganda. Frontiers in Nutrition. Submitted.
 Reid, G., Sybesma, W., Matovu, W., Onyango, A., Westerik, N., & Kort, R. (2020). Empowering women through probiotic fermented food in East Africa. Journal of global health 10: 1-5.