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Concept: Vagina

271

Sex and disgust are basic, evolutionary relevant functions that are often construed as paradoxical. In general the stimuli involved in sexual encounters are, at least out of context strongly perceived to hold high disgust qualities. Saliva, sweat, semen and body odours are among the strongest disgust elicitors. This results in the intriguing question of how people succeed in having pleasurable sex at all. One possible explanation could be that sexual engagement temporarily reduces the disgust eliciting properties of particular stimuli or that sexual engagement might weaken the hesitation to actually approach these stimuli.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Human sexual behavior, Human sexuality, Vagina, Orgasm, Sexual arousal

215

Human reproduction does not happen uniformly throughout the year and what drives human sexual cycles is a long-standing question. The literature is mixed with respect to whether biological or cultural factors best explain these cycles. The biological hypothesis proposes that human reproductive cycles are an adaptation to the seasonal (hemisphere-dependent) cycles, while the cultural hypothesis proposes that conception dates vary mostly due to cultural factors, such as holidays. However, for many countries, common records used to investigate these hypotheses are incomplete or unavailable, biasing existing analysis towards Northern Hemisphere Christian countries. Here we show that interest in sex peaks sharply online during major cultural and religious celebrations, regardless of hemisphere location. This online interest, when shifted by nine months, corresponds to documented human births, even after adjusting for numerous factors such as language and amount of free time due to holidays. We further show that mood, measured independently on Twitter, contains distinct collective emotions associated with those cultural celebrations. Our results provide converging evidence that the cyclic sexual and reproductive behavior of human populations is mostly driven by culture and that this interest in sex is associated with specific emotions, characteristic of major cultural and religious celebrations.

Concepts: Psychology, Sexual intercourse, Human, Male, Reproduction, Life, Human sexual behavior, Vagina

189

Reports on bacteria detected in maternal fluids during pregnancy are typically associated with adverse consequences, and whether the female reproductive tract harbours distinct microbial communities beyond the vagina has been a matter of debate. Here we systematically sample the microbiota within the female reproductive tract in 110 women of reproductive age, and examine the nature of colonisation by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and cultivation. We find distinct microbial communities in cervical canal, uterus, fallopian tubes and peritoneal fluid, differing from that of the vagina. The results reflect a microbiota continuum along the female reproductive tract, indicative of a non-sterile environment. We also identify microbial taxa and potential functions that correlate with the menstrual cycle or are over-represented in subjects with adenomyosis or infertility due to endometriosis. The study provides insight into the nature of the vagino-uterine microbiome, and suggests that surveying the vaginal or cervical microbiota might be useful for detection of common diseases in the upper reproductive tract.Whether the female reproductive tract harbours distinct microbiomes beyond the vagina has been a matter of debate. Here, the authors show a subject-specific continuity in microbial communities at six sites along the female reproductive tract, indicative of a non-sterile environment.

Concepts: Uterus, 16S ribosomal RNA, Reproductive system, Menstrual cycle, Female reproductive system, Endometrium, Cervix, Vagina

175

BACKGROUND: Physical and psychological problems after childbirth are common, and may have a significant negative and long-term impact on women’s wellbeing and daily functioning. The method of birth may be a particularly important factor influencing women’s health and wellbeing following birth, however, population-wide evidence is limited. This study uses data from 5,332 women who responded to a national survey of women’s experiences of maternity care in England. We examined women’s postnatal wellbeing in the first three months after birth, and whether these varied by mode of birth. METHODS: This is a secondary analysis of survey data using a random sample of women selected from birth registration. We used multinomial logistic regression models to examine the association between women’s self-reported psychological symptoms, health problems and mode of birth. RESULTS: Women who had forceps-assisted vaginal births and unplanned caesarean section births reported the poorest health and wellbeing, while those of women who had unassisted vaginal births and planned caesarean section births were less affected by the birth process. Most women’s physical and emotional health appeared to improve with time, however, those who had a forceps-assisted vaginal birth were more likely to report ongoing posttraumatic-type symptoms several months after the birth. CONCLUSIONS: Mode of birth was associated with differences in outcomes at three months. By comparison to women who had unassisted vaginal births, the risk of reduced postnatal health and wellbeing was higher amongst the women who had forceps-assisted vaginal births but not amongst women who had ventouse-assisted vaginal births. This would suggest that it is important to differentiate the different types of instrumental birth in outcome studies. Of concern was the higher rate of posttraumatic-type symptoms among women who had forceps-assisted vaginal births relative to the other modes of birth. Women who have forceps-assisted births should be monitored carefully by health professionals in the postnatal period, and in the months after childbirth, when they could be offered the opportunity to discuss their labour and birth.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Childbirth, Obstetrics, Multinomial logit, Vagina, Caesarean section, Unassisted childbirth

173

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a polymicrobial imbalance of the vaginal microbiota associated with reproductive infections, preterm birth, and other adverse health outcomes. Sialidase activity in vaginal fluids is diagnostic of BV and sialic acid-rich components of mucus have protective and immunological roles. However, while mucus degradation is believed to be important in the etiology and complications associated with BV, the role(s) of sialidases and the participation of individual bacterial species in the degradation of mucus barriers in BV have not been investigated. Here we demonstrate that the BV-associated bacterium Gardnerella vaginalis uses sialidase to break down and deplete sialic-acid-containing mucus components in the vagina. Biochemical evidence using purified sialoglycan substrates supports a model in which 1) G. vaginalis extracellular sialidase hydrolyzes mucosal sialoglycans, 2) liberated sialic acid (N-acetylneuraminic acid) is transported into the bacterium, a process inhibited by excess N-glycolylneuraminic acid, and 3) sialic acid catabolism is initiated by an intracellular aldolase/lyase mechanism. G. vaginalis engaged in sialoglycan foraging in vitro, in the presence of human vaginal mucus, and in vivo, in a murine vaginal model, in each case leading to depletion of sialic acids. Comparison of sialic acid levels in human vaginal specimens also demonstrated significant depletion of mucus sialic acids in women with BV compared to women with a normal lactobacilli-dominated microbiota. Taken together, these studies show that G. vaginalis utilizes sialidase to support the degradation, foraging, and depletion of protective host mucus barriers, and that this process of mucus barrier degradation and depletion also occurs in the clinical setting of BV.

Concepts: Childbirth, Bacteria, Cervix, Lactic acid, Vagina, Bacterial vaginosis, Gardnerella vaginalis, Clue cell

164

trans-Epithelial delivery of medication across the vagina has proven successful for administration of small, lipophilic molecules such as sex steroids. However, little information is available regarding the vaginal delivery of larger and more polar molecules that currently require parenteral administration reflecting the bias that vaginal epithelium is a barrier to absorption of larger molecular weight (MW) molecules. Six healthy women underwent administration of 18 or 36mg of leuprolide, a GnRH agonist and a larger MW peptide, via a novel ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) ring transvaginal drug delivery system (TVDS). Serum levels rose within 8h following insertion: low dose at 310pg/ml and high dose at 1220pg/ml, i.e. levels typically following parenteral injections of leuprolide. GnRHa biological activity was validated by secretion of gonadotropins and sex steroids. These results demonstrate that the non-keratinized vaginal epithelium permits a rapid absorption of a biologically active peptide and that there is significant potential for a novel TVDS to deliver peptides and possibly other macromolecules therapeutically.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Childbirth, Molecule, Peptide, Reproductive system, Cervix, Human sexuality, Vagina

164

Microbial communities are important to human health. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a disease associated with the vagina microbiome. While the causes of BV are unknown, the microbial community in the vagina appears to play a role. We use three different machine-learning techniques to classify microbial communities into BV categories. These three techniques include genetic programming (GP), random forests (RF), and logistic regression (LR). We evaluate the classification accuracy of each of these techniques on two different datasets. We then deconstruct the classification models to identify important features of the microbial community. We found that the classification models produced by the machine learning techniques obtained accuracies above 90% for Nugent score BV and above 80% for Amsel criteria BV. While the classification models identify largely different sets of important features, the shared features often agree with past research.

Concepts: Genetics, Archaea, Microbiology, Machine learning, Vagina, Candidiasis, Bacterial vaginosis, Human flora

162

Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) is one of the most prevalent vaginal infectious diseases, and there are controversial reports regarding the diversity of the associated vaginal microbiota. We determined the vaginal microbial community in patients with VVC, bacterial vaginosis (BV), and mixed infection of VVC and BV using Illumina sequencing of 16S rRNA tags. Our results revealed for the first time the highly variable patterns of the vaginal microbiome from VVC patients. In general, the alpha-diversity results of species richness and evenness showed the following order: normal control < VVC only < mixed BV and VVC infection < BV only. The beta-diversity comparison of community structures also showed an intermediate composition of VVC between the control and BV samples. A detailed comparison showed that, although the control and BV communities had typical patterns, the vaginal microbiota of VVC is complex. The mixed BV and VVC infection group showed a unique pattern, with a relatively higher abundance of Lactobacillus than the BV group and higher abundance of Prevotella, Gardnerella, and Atopobium than the normal control. In contrast, the VVC-only group could not be described by any single profile, ranging from a community structure similar to the normal control (predominated with Lactobacillus) to BV-like community structures (abundant with Gardnerella and Atopobium). Treatment of VVC resulted in inconsistent changes of the vaginal microbiota, with four BV/VVC samples recovering to a higher Lactobacillus level, whereas many VVC-only patients did not. These results will be useful for future studies on the role of vaginal microbiota in VVC and related infectious diseases.

Concepts: Disease, Infectious disease, Bacteria, Microbiology, Infection, Vagina, Candidiasis, Bacterial vaginosis

119

Sexual assault on college campuses is a public health issue. However varying research methodologies (e.g., different sexual assault definitions, measures, assessment timeframes) and low response rates hamper efforts to define the scope of the problem. To illuminate the complexity of campus sexual assault, we collected survey data from a large population-based random sample of undergraduate students from Columbia University and Barnard College in New York City, using evidence based methods to maximize response rates and sample representativeness, and behaviorally specific measures of sexual assault to accurately capture victimization rates. This paper focuses on student experiences of different types of sexual assault victimization, as well as sociodemographic, social, and risk environment correlates. Descriptive statistics, chi-square tests, and logistic regression were used to estimate prevalences and test associations. Since college entry, 22% of students reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual assault (defined as sexualized touching, attempted penetration [oral, anal, vaginal, other], or completed penetration). Women and gender nonconforming students reported the highest rates (28% and 38%, respectively), although men also reported sexual assault (12.5%). Across types of assault and gender groups, incapacitation due to alcohol and drug use and/or other factors was the perpetration method reported most frequently (> 50%); physical force (particularly for completed penetration in women) and verbal coercion were also commonly reported. Factors associated with increased risk for sexual assault included non-heterosexual identity, difficulty paying for basic necessities, fraternity/sorority membership, participation in more casual sexual encounters (“hook ups”) vs. exclusive/monogamous or no sexual relationships, binge drinking, and experiencing sexual assault before college. High rates of re-victimization during college were reported across gender groups. Our study is consistent with prevalence findings previously reported. Variation in types of assault and methods of perpetration experienced across gender groups highlight the need to develop prevention strategies tailored to specific risk groups.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Human sexual behavior, Human sexuality, New York City, Vagina, Rape, Bachelor's degree, Undergraduate education

88

The social and historical contexts may influence the speed of development. In seven large, nationally representative surveys of U.S. adolescents 1976-2016 (N = 8.44 million, ages 13-19), fewer adolescents in recent years engaged in adult activities such as having sex, dating, drinking alcohol, working for pay, going out without their parents, and driving, suggesting a slow life strategy. Adult activities were less common when median income, life expectancy, college enrollment, and age at first birth were higher and family size and pathogen prevalence were lower, consistent with life history theory. The trends are unlikely to be due to homework and extracurricular time, which stayed steady or declined, and may or may not be linked to increased Internet use.

Concepts: Family, Marriage, Biology, Life expectancy, Mother, Human development, Vagina, Wine