In women undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment, pregnancy rates are much lower when women have an imbalance in their vaginal bacteria. Is it possible to correct this problem and increase the pregnancy rate of these women To find out, five Danish fertility clinics, in collaboration with Statens Serum Institute and Osel Inc., are now conducting a joint clinical research project to improve IVF outcomes by altering the vaginal bacteria.
High levels of two specific vaginal bacteria (Atopobium vaginae and Gardnerella vaginalis) serve as diagnostic markers of an abnormal vaginal microbiota that might cause impaired implantation and subsequent poor reproductive outcome.
A recent publication demonstrated that women with an abnormal vaginal microbiota and undergoing IVF had a significantly lower chance of becoming pregnant (9%) compared to women with a normal Lactobacillus-dominated vaginal microbiota (44%).
The results of that publication, a collaborative study between the Fertility Clinic, Regional Hospital Skive, Aarhus University, Denmark, Trianglen Fertility Clinic, Denmark and Statens Serum Institute, Denmark, was published in the International Journal, Human Reproduction, in 2016.
Approximately 20% of all women in fertility treatment have abnormal vaginal microbiota which can also reside in the upper reproductive tract, i.e. the uterus and the oviducts. Unfortunately, many of these women have no symptoms, so this problem goes unrecognized.
Taken together, these findings convinced the authors to design a study to investigate whether the chance of pregnancy can be improved in these women by identifying and treating abnormal vaginal microbiota prior to embryo transfer. The study is a joint clinical research project in collaboration with five Danish fertility clinics, Statens Serum Institute and Osel, Inc.
“Ultimately, our success criterion is quite simple, we aim to increase the “baby take-home rate” for women suffering from abnormal vaginal microbiota. Potentially, this study will have great implications for fertility treatment in general. The treatment of abnormal vaginal microbiota might even enable more women to conceive naturally”, says MD, PhD student Thor Haahr.