Composition of the vaginal microbiota during pregnancy in women living in sub-Saharan Africa: a PRISMA-compliant review

Naomi C. A. Juliana, Remco P. H. Peters, Salwan Al-Nasiry, Andries E. Budding, Servaas A. Morré, Elena Ambrosino*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The vaginal microbiota (VMB) are the set of microorganisms residing in the human vagina. During pregnancy, their composition is Lactobacillus-dominant in most Caucasian women. Previous studies suggest that the VMB of women with African ancestry is more likely to be non-Lactobacillus dominant (dysbiotic) compared to other populations, and possibly relate to the high incidence of pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth. This work reviewed the literature on VMB composition in pregnant women from sub-Saharan Africa. Methods: A search was conducted in PubMed and Embase databases following PRISMA guidelines. Observational and intervention studies analysing VMB communities from sub-Saharan African pregnant women using molecular techniques were included. Results: Ten studies performed in seven sub-Saharan African countries were identified. They independently showed that Lactobacillus-dominant VMB (particularly L. iners or L. crispatus) or VMB containing Lactobacilli are the most prevalent, followed by a more diverse anaerobe-dominant VMB, in the studied populations. The majority of pregnant women with a sexually-transmitted infection had a Lactobacillus-dominant VMB, but with a significantly higher presence of anaerobic species. Conclusion: In agreement with studies performed in other populations, Lactobacillus species are the most prevalent VMB species during pregnancy in sub-Saharan African women. The frequency of diverse anaerobe-dominant VMB is high in these populations. In Africa, studies on VMB in pregnancy are scant, heterogeneous in methodology, and knowledge remains limited. More insights on VMB composition and their possible sequalae among these populations is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number596
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

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