Probiotics could slow down cervical cancer.

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Healthy Bacteria and unhealthy bacteria in the body

We know now that there are more foreign bacteria living on our bodies than the total count of our own cells in our bodies. We also know that some of these types of bacteria are helpful to us and it is perfectly natural for them to be in our bodies, we call them healthy bacteria.  Other bacteria are not so helpful to us and take up valuable space that could be occupied by the healthy bacteria. Healthy bodies are those that have the right balance of many different types of bacteria.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are supplements, foods, or suppositories that contain live cells of different types of healthy bacteria. The most commonly used probiotics are those for the gut and they are found in yoghurts and other foods as well as in tablet form.  Probiotics can also be found as suppositories for vaginal health.

What is Vaginal Health?

The mucosa of the vagina is a delicate environment that is home to many beneficial bacteria when it is healthy, but which can also get out of balance. The most dangerous problem related to vaginal health is cancer caused by the Human Papilloma Virus. The most common vaginal problem in women is bacterial vaginosis.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis include an itchy vaginal discharge that may be white or grey and smells. Bacterial Vaginosis is not a sexually transmitted disease but it can increase a woman’s risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease and giving birth early. Douching, having many sexual partners, and taking antibiotics can all affect the delicate balance of the vaginal mucosa. The main cause of Bacterial Vaginosis is a large overgrowth of all bacteria in the mucosa, combined with an excess of non-healthy bacteria and a reduction in healthy bacteria, especially lactobacillus.

What is lactobacillus?

Lactobacillus is the name of a family of bacteria that are commonly found in the human body especially in the gut, mouth, and the vagina. They are also the bacteria that are used to make some yoghurts, cheeses as well as pickles, sauerkraut, sourdough bread and some wines and juices. There are many different species of lactobacillus and their role in human health is a hot topic for research.

New research shows lactobacillus changes the way our bodies fight cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is usually caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are nearly 200 different HPV viruses. Whilst only a handful are responsible for causing cervical cancer, many others cause problems such as genital warts.  New research has shown that the vaginal environment can help or hinder the development of cervical cancer.  A study carried out in 2013, showed that normal cells in the cervix, and HPV infected cells, responded differently to their environment. In the study, the researchers took a lactobacillus solution and added it to two different cells cultures - normal cells and cervical cancer cells. They then compared the amount of growth and cell death of the two different cultures, and found that the lactobacillus solution inhibited cell growth in the cervical cancer cells, but not in the normal cells.

In a study published this year, a research team looked at the composition of vaginal bacteria in women with cervical cancer. Results showed that if a woman had a large variety of bacteria species in the vaginal mucosa, the cancer progressed more quickly. In the women with less varied species of bacteria, who also had a large proportion of lactobacillus, the cervical cancer progression was slower.

This seems to imply that some species of non-healthy bacteria are actually aiding the cancer. For the technically minded, the bad bacteria were: Sneathia sanguinegens, Anaerococcus tetradius and Peptostreptococcus anaerobius.  The good bacteria that could possibly be helping slow down the cancer progression, and that was lacking in people whose cancer progressed more quickly, was Lactobacillus jensenii.

This research and earlier research all points to the benefits of knowing what the status of the vaginal mucosa is in women with cervical cancer, and the importance of developing a helpful vaginal probiotics treatment.

Read more on probiotics:






Montevaseli et al. Normal and tumour cervical cells respond differently to vaginal lactobacilli, independent of pH and lactate. J Med Microbiol. Jul 2013.

Mitra et al. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia disease progression is associated with increased vaginal microbiome diversity, Sci Rep Nov 2015.


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